La Rinconada is a town located right in the middle of Peruvian Andes, at 5.300 meters above the sea level. Its population of about 20.000 inhabitants may grow or shrink depending on the time of the year and the proximity of the gold mining operations.
Weather in La Rinconada is so extreme that cold is bone-wrenching. This is also a land of coca. Coca leaves, apart from helping ease the physical effects of altitude, work as an offering from the miners to the motherland for an easy gold extraction.
The mercury contamination of water and soil has become a real nightmare. Although it is an essential element in the gold separation process, mercury has a huge negative impact on the population. Its effects wreck not only people health but also the entire social environment because generates new forms of violence against miners, women and children.
The waste management is very poor, which causes an irreversible environmental impact. Social and territorial chaos and a harsh weather all over the year, make La Rinconada and its gold mines a really living white hell.
This is not only the highest permanent settlement in the world. This is one of the hardest places on earth, where people struggle to survive.