We’ve Struck Gold!

Jake and I just returned from three days in the countryside with Oscar and his son and daughter. We are back in our Medellin apartment and are both covered with dust and sweat.  Jake’s face is red as a beet, as he forgot to apply sunscreen and at around noon today we found ourselves walking down the dusty side of a mountain with no tree cover due to 500 years of gold mining. Before the walk, our descent from the top of the mountain, “Marmato,” involved a treacherous motorcycle ride down a dusty road where I clung to the belly of a 30-something Colombian man who laughed every time I dug my fingers into his chubbiness.


Oscar in his “office.”


Oscar’s 17-year old daughter is already an awesome photographer. She and Jake went in the mine… I was too scared!  I walked in a few feet and turned back :).


The descent.


Miners in the area of the mountain called “Cien Pesos”


Even on the cliffside roads of mining town, the huge chivas carry people and their products.

While we were in Marmato, we interviewed a bunch of miners and learned how gold is extracted and processed.  The miners have been digging mines into the side of mountain for centuries as a means of subsistence.  Now their way of life – as well as the environment and the water supply of the area – is threatened by a Canadian mining company.  The company has been attempting to move all the residents from their homes so it can begin open-pit mining. The miners have organized to try to stop the company, but it continues to use heavy machinery to dig out the inside of the mountain below, while the mining use slower, more traditional techniques to pull gold from the upper half of the mountain using tunnels.  Some of the Colombian miners showed us cracks in the walls of their homes from the mining going on beneath them. They said that the Canadian company was “eating the mountain from below” and that they would perish along with the mountain if things continued…

The unfolding story was also featured this week at the Sundance Film Festival in documentary about the town – appropriately titled “Marmato.” We haven’t seen the film – it debuted at the festival – but one of the producers is a friend from graduate school. Here’s a review we found online, if you want to read more.


The mine owner in the green shirt welcomed us into his home. His kids were great and his wife and sister cooked us some amazing meals.


This is the mine that Jake went into.


A rock containing gold before it is processed.


A 20-year-old and a 64-year-old working together in the mine.


A miner showing Jake how to get the gold dust to settle at the bottom of the pan.


View from the Marmato mountain, looking out.


Getting sun burned on the side of the mountain.

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One Response to We’ve Struck Gold!

  1. Pingback: One of those days | ABQ 2 ABD

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