Small-scale gold mining in the Philippines and Indonesia uses mercury and cyanide to extract elemental gold from ore extracted from mines and pits dug by hand. Very young children, some as young as four, are put to work at less dangerous but still rigorous tasks in the gold mining areas. These include panning in streams or rivers and hauling ore sacks that can weigh up to 60 pounds.
Children often play near mechanized equipment and highly toxic mercury and cyanide. These chemicals are leached into watersheds where fish and other marine life, mainstays of the Philippine diet, are poisoned. Consumer demand for gold and the poor economy in many developing countries have led to an increase in small-scale gold mining throughout the world.