The wealth of Dubai’s gold companies contrasts sharply with the poor conditions under which some of the gold is being mined. According to the International Labor Organization, more than 1 million children work in mining globally. In mining areas across Africa, Asia, and Latin America children as young as 6 work in small-scale gold mining and risk their lives as a result.
They work in unstable shafts that often collapse, haul backbreaking loads of heavy ore, and use toxic mercury to separate the gold from the ore. During field research in Tanzania in late 2012, Human Rights Watch interviewed 61 children working in gold mining. A 14-year old-boy retold how a mine pit collapsed on him. He was hospitalized and said “I fear a lot.”
Nineteen children also described how they handle mercury on a regular basis, often with their bare hands, when they create a mercury-gold amalgam which they or others then burn, causing the mercury to evaporate and leaving behind the raw gold. Mercury causes brain damage and is particularly harmful to children — to those who breathe in the fumes because they work or live nearby as well as those who work with it.