Read the full story in Inter Press Service News Agency

I am about 200 feet down a rickety old mine shaft, in the Ashanti gold mining region of Ghana. It is stiflingly hot and darker than a moonless night. I can only feel the touch of sweaty bodies passing in the darkness and hear the reverberating sound of miners coughing and breaking rocks. The lack of oxygen and dust make it hard to breathe. I have no idea how deep this shaft goes – hundreds of feet? More? If there is a Hell this must be what it feels like.

The abolitionists who have brought me to this illegal operation refuse to go down the dilapidated shaft – an abandoned mine that has been taken over by small-scale outlaw operators after the legitimate owners have moved on. Instead, some of the miners in this “gang” of eight men agree to let me accompany them underground.