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Indonesia's Mercury Menace

29 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 19 September 2013

Up to 20% of the world’s gold is produced by informal mining, with millions of people in the developing world relying on it for a living. But the quickest and easiest way to produce gold is by mixing finely ground rock with mercury and burning it off.

Linda Pressly has visited Indonesia, where gold workers and communities are showing signs of mercury poisoning, and where the paddy fields of Lombok have recorded the highest concentration of mercury ever found in rice.

(Image: Toxic mercury being used by small-scale gold miners, Indonesia. BBC Copyright)

  • Miners use mechanical sluices to trap the mud that is rich in gold

    Miners in a pond
    They mix this with mercury in buckets using their bare hands. Mercury is a persistent pollutant - it does not break down in the environment.
  • Toxic Fumes

    Mercury in a small bottle

    Mercury use in small-scale gold mining in Indonesia is illegal, but miners still use it to extract gold from the rock or soil.

    The fumes are highly toxic and is slowly poisoning miners who use it in the field.


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