Children sifting the earth for gold


Gold mining is far from a golden industry. In fact, gold mining poses serious environmental and human rights concerns. Modern mining for gold is a massive operation which causes massive environmental damage with the potential for devastating the landscape for thousands of years. Research shows that the industry produces 79 tons of waste for every ounce of gold.

As if that weren't enough, human rights atrocities are very common in the gold rich regions. The deals that benefit local warlords and international gold companies often leave the deadly traces in the local community.

But that's not all, unfortunately. A recent investigation by the Associated Press finds thousands of child gold miners in West Africa, some as young as 4 years old.

These children work in mines with less than rich ore. Industrial, environmentally damaging mining takes care of the rich ore mining. Poor people and children take care of sifting the earth.

According to the AP investigation:

"The spike in gold prices during the past seven years has lured increasing numbers of poor people, including child recruits, to bush mines. The United Nations labor agency estimates that there are now 100,000 to 250,000 child gold miners in West Africa alone.

They steer wheelbarrows of dirt over rutted paths. They pound the dirt with wooden posts for hours until it is as fine as flour. They wash the dirt in a large sieve-like box. Then they squat next to a plastic tub, pour mercury into their bare hands and rub it into the mud like a woman scrubbing laundry on rocks.

Mercury attracts gold like a magnet.

But it also attacks the brain and can cause tremors, speech impediments, retardation, kidney damage and blindness."

Next time when you think of buying something gold, think of those miners -- or rather, those kids. Since, if you own anything gold, there are big chances you are already connected to them.

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