A miner works inside of a gold mine in La Rinconada, Peru. A miner works inside of a gold mine in La Rinconada, Peru.
Pallaqueras, female gold miners, pick through the tailings, searching for gold around the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru. Pallaqueras, female gold miners, pick through the tailings, searching for gold around the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru.
Corrugated metal shacks, homes of the gold miners, seen on a steep mountainside in La Rinconada, Peru. Corrugated metal shacks, homes of the gold miners, seen on a steep mountainside in La Rinconada, Peru.
Pallaquera, a female gold miner, searches for gold on a load of waste rock from the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru. Pallaquera, a female gold miner, searches for gold on a load of waste rock from the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru.
A woman miner separates gold from ground rock, using mercury and a pan, during the artisanal processing of gold ore in La Rinconada, Peru. A woman miner separates gold from ground rock, using mercury and a pan, during the artisanal processing of gold ore in La Rinconada, Peru.
A gold nugget seen at a gold trafficker's office in La Rinconada, Peru. A gold nugget seen at a gold trafficker's office in La Rinconada, Peru.
A sacrificial place, where offerings to the mountain gods are left, seen at the entrance to the gold mine in La Rinconada, Peru. A sacrificial place, where offerings to the mountain gods are left, seen at the entrance to the gold mine in La Rinconada, Peru.
Pallaqueras, female gold miners, eat lunch in their shelter close to the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru. Pallaqueras, female gold miners, eat lunch in their shelter close to the gold mines in La Rinconada, Peru.
A miner walks along the corrugated metal shacks, homes of the gold miners, in La Rinconada, Peru. A miner walks along the corrugated metal shacks, homes of the gold miners, in La Rinconada, Peru.
Miners separate gold from finely ground rock, using mercury and a pan, during the artisanal processing of gold ore in La Rinconada, Peru. Miners separate gold from finely ground rock, using mercury and a pan, during the artisanal processing of gold ore in La Rinconada, Peru.
A cross on the grave seen at the cemetery in La Rinconada, Peru. A cross on the grave seen at the cemetery in La Rinconada, Peru.

Gold beneath the sky

La Rinconada, Peru – August 2012

During the last decade, the rising price of the gold has attracted thousands of people to the town of La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, turning it into the Klondike of the 21st century. At 5300 metres above sea level, nearly 50.000 people work in the gold mines and live in the nearby colonies without running water, sewage system or heating service. Although the work in the mines is very dangerous (falling rocks, poisonous gases and a shifting glacier), the majority of miners have no contract and operate under the cachorreo system - working 30 days without payment and taking the gold they supposedly find the 31st day as the only salary. In spite of a heavily demaged environment, caused by mercury contamination from the mining and the lack of garbage disposal, people continue to flock to the region hoping to find in the deadly mines their fortune.

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