Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gold standard

Horrible.
A reef of gold buried beneath this vast, parched grassland arcs across some of the world's poorest countries. Where the ore is rich, industrial mines carve it out. Where it is not, the poor sift the earth.

These hard-working miners include many thousands of children. They work long hours at often dangerous jobs in hundreds of primitive mines scattered through the West African bush. Some are as young as 4 years old.

In a yearlong investigation, The Associated Press visited six of these bush mines in three West African countries and interviewed more than 150 child miners. The agency's journalists watched as gold mined by children was bought by itinerant traders. And through interviews and customs documents, they tracked gold from these mines on a 4,800-kilometer, or 3,000-mile, journey to Mali's capital city and then on to Switzerland, where it entered the world market.

[...]

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. But it also attacks the brain and can cause tremors, speech impediments, retardation, kidney damage and blindness.
Learn all you can about that jewelry you have your eye on before you plunk down one cent.

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