The Harsh Reality Behind the Glamor of Gold, via The Guardian
“The miners bring rock containing the metal ore to the surface where it is crushed by hand into a fine powder in the search for gold – work mainly carried out by women.
Then, controversially, the deadly metal mercury is used to help separate the gold. Gold clings to mercury which is burnt off in open cooking pans, the vapours filling the atmosphere, sometimes with children close by. Severe risks to health are caused by exposure to mercury which can lead to brain and nervous system damage, gastroenteritis, kidney complaints and more, yet the workers do not know this and swill the mercury with their bare hands.The mercury also pollutes local rivers and the food chain.
For all of these efforts, the miners receive sometimes less than $1 a day from middlemen, unaware of the gold’s value. As Tina Mwasha, Tanzania’s first female mineral processing engineer says, “If a broker walks into your compound and offers to buy your gold and you haven’t eaten for two days – then you sell.”
Fairtrade has already brought signs of hope. Several mines in Latin America are working to Fairtrade standards. A Fairtrade minimum price is paid for the gold plus a $2,000 (£1,200) per kilo premium, often invested in better equipment.”