The land which the gold hunters rip open today in search of the most precious metal, was once covered by a luxuriant forest. At the villages of Tumbang Tariak and Tumbang Miwan, in the Indonesian Island of Borneo, many are those who challenge the law – the extraction of gold is considered an illegal activity – and their own health. The administrative legislation has been bent enabling the corruption of the public officials who turn a blind eye to whom they were supposed to control. The search for a little Eldorado of their own is the purpose of many families, and children too, around here: a few years of hard work su ce to earn as much as needed to be able to leave this desolate place, full of mud and many poisons, to buy a house in town and start a new life there. The informal miners, men, women and children, do not have access to sophisticated technology and they use mercury to extract gold, mixing the ore that contains gold with water, in order to form an amalgam. Immediately afterwards, the mix is heated to remove mercury by evaporation while the contaminated water is thrown into the Kahayan River that crosses the surrounding villages. There are no trees, long ago uprooted to dig without mercy a land that has become a permanent swamp caused by the jet of the water pumps that miners use to bring all detritus to the surface. And this is the most delicate and risky stage of the extracting process.

The reportage “Artisanal gold mining” is part of a wider project called “Child survival in a changing climate” by Luca Catalano Gonzaga. This project, is carried out by Witness Image and financially supported by Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation.