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An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 children work in Mali’s artisanal (small-scale) gold mines, where they dig pits, work underground, carry, and crush ore. They also touch and inhale mercury, a highly toxic substance that is used to extract gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children. Most child laborers in mines never go to school; some are as young as six years old.