The Harsh Reality of Illegal Gold Mining in South America (46 pics)

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These hard-hitting photos show a glimpse into the lives of gold miners in south-east Peru. Miners work 28 hours shifts for minimum wage, are slowly poisoned by the mercury used to bind gold flecks and chew on a mild herbal stimulant that is the basis of cocaine in order to stay awake. The mining also destroys the surrounding tropical forests and the government loses approximately $305 million in taxes every year. 

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