Thousands of children in the Philippines are working in the country's gold mines, where conditions are deadly and "absolutely terrifying," according to a report published Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. According to Time, the report includes interviews with 65 child miners—some of whom started working in gold mines when they were only 9 years old. Al Jazeera reports children are paid a few dollars a day to lower themselves into pits—some more than 80 feet deep, some underwater and requiring a hose to breathe—for hours at a time. Two brothers died of suffocation in one airless pit in 2014; others have been left with joint pain, brain disorders, and skin disease.
But it's not just the mines that are dangerous. After the gold is retrieved, children use their bare hands to process it with mercury, Time reports. According to Al Jazeera, the leftover poisonous metal ends up in rivers were other children play. In the Philippines, anyone under 18 is prohibited from hazardous work, and underwater mining was actually outlawed in March. But both still occur in the country's hunt for gold. "I don't meddle in what they do," one employer tells HRW when questioned about letting minors work. A government official says it's impossible to monitor all the small gold-mining operations going on around the country. HRW is advocating for better oversight by the banks buying the gold and mercury-free processing.