Human Rights Watch says children are working in “absolutely terrifying conditions”, some of them diving underwater.
Khartoum, Sudan – Toxic chemicals used to extract gold from Sudan’s mines are not only harming the health of miners, but also those who live nearby.
Mine workers in rural Sudan use mercury and cyanide to separate gold.
Mustafa Abdulgadir, a gold miner, is aware that mercury could kill him.
“I would have taken another job, but this is the only one I’ve got,” Abdulgadir told Al Jazeera. “While burning the gold, the smoke affects me. That’s why I use the scarf, but still it affects me.”
Basheer Elkhazim, a local doctor in Ebeidiya, said that he diagnoses patients with poisoning daily. On average, he sees three mercury poisoning cases a day; three lead poisoning cases, and up to eight patients with chest infections.
Sudan cannot afford to halt or lower production of gold, since it would hurt the already struggling economy.
Officials said they are aware of the health hazards and are working on eliminating the use of mercury by 2020.
“We have approved a plan to get rid of mercury, and we signed the Minamata agreement in Japan which aims to put an end to its use,” said Ahmed al-Karory, the minister of minerals.