In the Philippines, an illegal gold trade is booming.
But not everyone is reaping large profits.
Investors desperate to cash in on a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year are enticing poor villagers to risk their lives by diving deep below the surface of muddy mangroves in search of gold.
The nuggets they find may eventually fetch a high price, but miners often receive a pittance and there is little safeguard to protect them.
“We put our lives at risk for this job,” says Jerry, a miner in Paracale, known as Gold Town.
While financiers make huge profits, those at the bottom of the chain suffer health problems like mercury poisoning and tuberculosis.
Jerry has been working in illegal gold mines for the past 20 years, but hasn’t been able to work for the past three months.
“I feel pain and congestion in my chest, on my back and with my breathing. Most of the time, I feel frail and weak. Sometimes, I can barely walk,” he says.
101 East joins him as he visits a doctor, who diagnoses him with pulmonary tuberculosis. The doctor believes Jerry’s job, diving for gold, is to blame.
Even so, Jerry says his gold diving days may not yet be over.
“I need to work to support my children. I just have to accept the hardship and what can possibly happen to me in the mining sites,” he says.
101 East investigates why people are dying for gold.
Join the conversation @AJ101East.