Michael Robinson Chavez
Los Angeles Times
Rinconada: Peru's New El Dorado
The high price of gold has driven Peruvians deep into the mines of Rinconada, a 17400 foot high city perched on the edge of a glacier in the Andes. Living and working conditions are brutal for both the workers and the environment. Mercury, used to separate gold from rock, is discarded straight into the water table. There is no law, no sewage, no government and no warmth in the toxic streets of Rinconada. The commodities boom of Latin America is fueled by the sweat and blood of workers, like those in Rinconada, that toil in misery to earn their keep.
Dangers abound in Rinconada's tunnels. Unseen gases are the deadliest killer. They shut your nervous system down and you die within minutes. More common are cave ins and poorly handled explosives. Safety equipment is minimal and inspections and oversight are non-existent.