In May 2012, I went to one of traditional gold mining, community gold mining which located remote and hard to reach areas in West Kalimantan.
In the gold mining areas men, women, and children work in artisanal gold mining to make a living. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are about one million children working in artisanal mining worldwide, and the number is rising. There has been a dramatic rise in the price of gold since the start of the financial crisis in 2008, and artisanal gold mining is likely to remain an attractive economic activity for many people in impoverished, rural areas.
Nearly all children involved in small-scale mining located in remote, hard-to-reach areas, making them difficult to regulate and hindering efforts to assist the children working there.
Cold and dangerous these ‘unofficial’ and unregulated gold mines are no places for children. Due to extreme poverty and lack of access to education, some feel they have little choice but to risk the dangers.
Most artisanal gold miners—adults and children—use mercury to extract gold from the ore, as it is easy to obtain and the cheapest and easiest method available. They amalgamate gold with mercury and then burn the amalgam to separate out the gold, risking their health and their lives. Work with mercury is classified as hazardous under international law and particularly harmful to children and can impair a child’s cognitive development. Mercury poisoning, liver disease and respiratory ailments are just some of the hazards they face.