Many of Philippines’ 5.5 million child workers are risking their lives digging for “Dirty Gold” in unbelievable conditions. Desperate men and children scour underwater mine-shafts in this terrifying report.
Breathing through nothing more than a thin pipe connected to an air compressor, going 30 foot deep underwater for hours in search of gold is all in a day’s work for 16-year-old Gerald. “I’m afraid, if the earth collapses, I will get buried underneath” says the teenager. Surrounded by rock walls in the pitch black darkness of the water, the men chip away at walls for 3 hours. They find no gold. For many like Gerald school is a distant memory, and illegally diving for gold the only alternative to starvation. Hundreds of deaths by electrocution, drowning and even the possibility of Mercury poisoning have had little impact on compressor mining activities, which continue un-policed and unregulated. There appears little hope of change on the horizon. “If I could only give job opportunities – I will take them away from compressor mining. It is just that I have no alternative at this point” says Ricarte Padilla, Mayor of Jose Panganiban – Philippines’ so-called “Gold Coast”. As it is, the children and family men unearthing 60-80kg of gold per month see the lions share of wealth disappear into the Chinese black market.