Thirty miles north of Myitkyna, in Myanmar's northern Kachin State, three illegal gold miners stand knee-deep in mud, standing in the middle of a mine that was closed, with what they say was no warning, earlier in the month. The men dig through stones, lay down green floor mats and sift through sand that lies sparkling in the Sun, the promise of gold in its glimmer.
Using their bare hands and a single garden hoe, the three men don’t stop working, even when asked questions about their lives and safety.
“So you know that it’s poisonous and potentially killing you slowly, but you use and directly handle it anyways?” they’re asked.
The miners let out a dry laugh, still moving stones and hauling red heaps of mud as they answer the question.
“Of course we do. But what choice are we given?”
Photographed and written for Frontier Myanmar, this story investigated the dangerous levels of mercury present in the waterways of Myanmar.