Nathalie Bertrams

The Garimpeiros of Bandire
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Nationality: German
Biography: Nathalie Bertrams is an award-winning freelance photographer and journalist who publishes in major newspapers such as The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Al Jazeera, De Groene Amsterdammer and the Mail & Guardian. She is a National... read on
Public Story
The Garimpeiros of Bandire
Credits: nathalie bertrams
Date of Work: 12/17/14 - 12/31/14
Updated: 05/09/17
Archived as:  , ,

The Garimpeiros of Bandire - Sustainable gold mining in Manica Province, Mozambique

Manica Province in central Mozambique is experiencing a gold rush which has devastating environmental impacts. The concerned government has established artisanal miner’s associations in order to engage in more sustainable mining practices.

Many rivers in central Mozambique are of a deep red colour. The loss of nutrient rich soil is one of the biggest environmental impacts of illegal gold mining in Manica Province. Polluted with muddy sediment and contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury, the rivers’ water is not only undrinkable but even harmful for human and livestock consumption or crop irrigation. The water becomes as infertile as the land that is left unsuitable for cultivation, with open pits and abandoned shafts.

Small scale mining has developed into the province’s second largest economic activity after agriculture with about 20.000 mostly illegal gold diggers – garimpeiros in Portuguese – living precariously in the search for survival. Only about 1.500 of the miners are organised in associations and thus operate legally. It took Eduardo Ndunguro, geologist of the provincial mining directorate, more than 7 years to create the Associação Mineira de Bandire in order to license prospecting and engage in sustainable mining practices.

With methods as rudimental as their gold mining, the association’s 300 members avoid contamination of their river Nyamakwio and achieve soil recovery for agricultural use. Instead of taking the auriferous soil to the stream, the water is pumped up to the individual pits. Only there is it dissolved and mixed with mercury to amalgamate the precious metal. After the pits are exhausted, they are refilled with excavated material and ground cover is slowly renaturated. The small river has cleared up with fish coming back; and the association has started replanting indigenous tree species around the village of Munhinga.

Though mining remains the biggest source of water pollution, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation in Manica province, the association’s efforts have greatly improved life in Munhinga village.


By Nathalie Bertrams —


The Forgotten People

By Nathalie Bertrams — The Forgotten People An estimated 450.000 stateless Palestinians live in Lebanon, descendants of the refugees who were seeking shelter from the..

The Guests, Turkey

By Nathalie Bertrams — The Guests, Turkey Turkey hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians displaced by the ongoing war in the neighbouring state, more than any other country...

Flower of Paradise

By Nathalie Bertrams — The village of Aweday near Harar in Southeastern Ethiopia is at the heart of the Ethiopian khat trade (or qat (Yemen), miraa (Kenya), marungi..

Die Kas – Namakwaland, South Africa

By Nathalie Bertrams — Die Kas – Namakwaland, South Africa Die Kas – Afrikaans for ‘the closet’ – is the nickname of the poor part of Okiep, a small town in the..

Naija, you dey kolo

By Nathalie Bertrams — Naija, you dey kolo (Nigeria, you are crazy) The photo series travels to Abuja to find images resonating like memories between the urban centre..


By Nathalie Bertrams/Dafna Gazit — Outcast - in collaboration with Dafna Gazit Some 45,000 Africans who fled war in South Sudan, genocide in Darfur and military dictatorship in..

The Sangomas of Mthatha

By Nathalie Bertrams — AH DALIBANDLA The Sangomas of Southern Africa are the traditional healers, the respected guardians of knowledge and traditional African medicine...
Join us
for more access