Burner Boys

Day by day, these young miners tackle the terrible, unhealthy working conditions in the refuse dump.

Copper is what Isaac and his crew are after. They spend most of their days in search of the precious metal in the fridges, cables and other appliances they spot on the waste dump or buy from scraps.

They then burns the plastic part of the wires to reveal the precious metal within and cools the metal with plastic sachet water bought from street sellers.

Even with these hard conditions, These young men are always happy and smiling.

As it is for Isaac and Moses, copper is the most valuable metal. They claim to sell about 100lbs a day to middlemen who take it to Tema Harbor to be shipped away.


The men start later than the rest of the people working the scrapyard. They must wait for scrap workers to strip appliances of their wiring or prise valuable components from the hearts of car engines, and then bring them for burning. But by late morning, dark columns of smoke have risen above Agbogbloshie.

Isaac marked as their leader, manoeuvring a bouquet of blazing wire with a long rod in order to keep his distance from its baking heat and toxic fumes. Flames of electric green, blue and violet lick the wires before gathering into thick black plumes. It is a highly specialised skill. Get it wrong and you spoil the copper.

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