The Spanish arrived in El Chocó, in the Colombian Pacific, successfully searching gold. African slaves they brought to work the mines were the ancestors of today’s Afro-Colombian population there.
Commercial mining ended in the 60s, but recently high prices for gold and limited proven supply have provoked a boom in mining by excavating pits with large backhoes. Tons of rocks and silt are dumped into the streams and rivers. Mercury pollutes air, water and soil. And the gold removed is measured only in pounds.
Once major operations are over, the pits are turned over to local people, who become full-time artisanal miners. Other traditional economic activities—farming, fishing, hunting, etc.—are abandoned, and many people devote themselves to the back-breaking and dangerous work.
And the rewards are few. The gold they get is measured in castellanos (.01 pound) and tomines (1/8 of a castellano). Dreams of a more comfortable and secure life are generally frustrated. I asked a gold buyer if mining would lift the people from poverty, “Never in their lives—though we gold traders are making money!”
Please note that since all these images come from one gold-mining pit, near the town of Lloró, in El Chocó, individual captions seemed superfluous, so each image has only an identifying code in place of a caption.
To license this work for editorial, creative, or other uses, click on the OZMO logo above.
This will take you to the Ozmo website where you can review the cost and license for the photographs in this exhibit.
You will need to create an account with both Amazon payments and with the Ozmo website as described on the Ozmo website.