Gold Town, Philippines / 2016
The town of Paracale in Camarines Norte, is one of the oldest town of small-scale gold mining operation in Philippines. It is estimated that gold was discovered beneath it in 1626, during Spanish ruled, and Spaniards worked the gold-bearing gravel in its rivers and streams. After almost four hundreds years, Palacale has still attracted prospectors, miners and casual labors. Meanwhile, Gold mining has long been a risky business especially for underground mining workers. Small-scale mining workers are always risk of injury and death from accidents. Moreover, they, including many children, suffer lung damage due to breathing dust and particulates, or range of neurological problems due to exposure to mercury, which is used to separate the gold from the rock and the sand. Mercury cause harmful not only to mining workers but also to locals who don't live or work in mining areas. Because mercury-contaminated water flows from mining areas into the river, where children play and fish live in. Three years ago, the government shut underground pits down along the coast near Palacale. Because more than one hundred mining workers died during mining operation in this area for a few years. But since last year, these pits have reopened and started mining operation again. Anonymous workers and residents say some local politicians accepted to open these pits again for the next election or a bribe. It is estimated that ninety percent of gold in Philippines is traded at the black markets or smuggled out of the country.