La Rinconada is a town at the foot of a majestic Peruvian Andean glacier, at 5,100 meters above
sea level. It is an old mining settlement, rich in gold deposits that today has reached a population
of about 70 thousand inhabitants thanks to the "gold fever". It is the highest inhabited center in
the world, though it is considered one of the most hellish places on the planet.
When the gold deposits were initially discovered, the mine was taken over by a company that had only the men of the village work on it. These men had to possess a high tolerance to the harsh temperatures that drop into tunnels which reach -4°F. Potential workers also had to have a genetic resistance to the poor oxygenation of the air due to the high altitude. These courageous men were in search of gold, tackling a climb of over half an hour every day, breathing rarefied air saturated with poisonous gases such as mercury and cyanide.
The living conditions in La Rinconada are terrifying and inhuman. The only source of drinking water in the city comes from lakes contaminated by mercury, there is no waste disposal system and people are forced to live among garbage, without electricity and sewage, among excruciating nauseating stinks. There are no schools or hospitals and the life expectancy of this population is 30-35 years, about half that of an average Peruvian citizen. People die slowly, devoured by lung diseases and respiratory infections that over time affect the nervous system, causing deformation, memory loss, paralysis and death.
It is called "Devil's Paradise" and was a place illegally governed by criminal gangs and local organizations that do not allow foreign mining companies and had adopted an absurd payment system called "cachorreo". Workers were paid a salary of zero and worked 30 days straight completely free and on the 31 st day they were asked to dig for 3 hours straight and then remove all mining material. The truly inconceivable thing is that none of these miners were forced to work under these conditions of suffering and degradation, they volunteered in hopes of striking it rich.
Peru is the eighth country in the world for the export of gold, but not everyone knows exactly how it is extracted. The true origins of such material is often kept under wraps by big corporations, ignoring human rights abuses, and environmental and social destruction with a scope of profit first.
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