There are mainly women panning gold in the Agua Clara opencut near Tadó.
Goldminers are predominantly Afro Colombians, descendants of African slaves brought there by Spanish conquistadores.
Although some heavy machinery arrived to Choco gold mines in the last years, the prevailing technique of extracting gold is still gold panning. It is locally called ‘bareque’.
Many women gold miners do not have rubber boots, some do not have any shoes. There is a high risk of injury because the moving mud is full of sharp rocks and rests of jungle trees.
Gold mining leaves the Chocó jungle environmentally damaged. Removing the vegetation cover and forming pools of standing water cause the increase of mosquito population and malaria respectively.
Nearly all women gold miners complain of a backache. They suffer from malaria, tropical fevers and parasitic deseases due to the working conditions.
The gold panning technique is based on a different weight of elements. Gold nuggets are denser than a rock so they settle to the bottom of the pan.
The woman goldminer digging goldbearing earth. They do not pay for panning, the mine owners let them glean in the hole after the rich part has been already excavated by machines.
The daily earnings of goldminers do not reach over a couple of dollars but every barequero is totally convinced that thousands of dollars can be made here.
The gold pan filled with goldbearing mud and rocks weighs about ten-fifteen kilograms. Goldminers carry it to the water pool to get washed. It can be washed in ten minutes approximately.
According to the Colombian statistics 70 percent of the whole Choco population is either active in the gold and platine mining or closely connected to it.