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Story Publication logo February 20, 2015

Indonesia: Unearthing Toxic Conditions for Impoverished Gold Miners

Media file: PricePhilippinesChildLaborProjectTeaser.jpg

Tiny children and teens toil in the gold mines of the Philippines and Indonesia. A risky, often...


Small-scale gold mining in the Philippines and Indonesia uses mercury and cyanide to extract elemental gold from ore extracted from mines and pits dug by hand. Very young children, some as young as four, are put to work at less dangerous but still rigorous tasks in the gold mining areas. These include panning in streams or rivers and hauling ore sacks that can weigh up to 60 pounds.

Children often play near mechanized equipment and highly toxic mercury and cyanide. These chemicals are leached into watersheds where fish and other marine life, mainstays of the Philippine diet, are poisoned. Consumer demand for gold and the poor economy in many developing countries have led to an increase in small-scale gold mining throughout the world.

View the additional online presentation of photographs and multimedia as featured on PBS NewsHour

Listen to Larry C. Price's "Field Notes Podcast: Into the Gold Mines" by the Pulitzer Center's Quinn Libson.