The heartbreaking history of the women who work in Peru's illegal gold mines

Illegal Mines Eradicated in Peru


While some gold mines have been eradicated, Peru's gold mines are still a huge part of the country's culture and economy. At a mere three miles above sea level, working in this environment is extremely dangerous, with temperatures that dip below freezing and limited access to hygienic practices. Thus, unregulated employment is very common in this environment, specifically for people who reside in La Rinconada.

Because of long-standing superstitions that are a part of Peruvian culture, only men are allowed to work in the mines. Women are left with the awful situation of digging for leftover gold that comes along with the waste that is taken away from the gold mine site.

Peruvian culture refers to these women as pallaqueras -- or the Daughters of Awichita -- named after the god who keeps the miners protected.

Peruvian photographer Omar Lucas had the chance to visit La Rinconda, and he spoke to VICE about his experience.

When VICE asked him why women weren't legally allowed to work in the mines Lucas said, "There is a belief that the gold will disappear if they do.

While other parts of the world are facing gender equality and gender pay gap issues, this specific issue in Peru is very unique and it definitely generates future conversation about gender equality in Peruvian culture.

See the gallery of photos below for a glimpse into the wasteland that has resulted from the gold mines in Peru:

6 PHOTOS
Illegal Gold Mining's Wasteland - Peruvian Rainforest
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The heartbreaking history of the women who work in Peru's illegal gold mines
A vast area of land is seen with permanent ecological damage due to surface gold mining, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, in what has been considered the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, in what has been considered the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast east of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris from surface gold mining have left vast areas of land with permanent ecological damage, near the village of Nueva in Puerto Maldonado, considered as the Peruvian capital of biodiversity, some 1,660 kilometres (995 miles) southeast of Lima on October 2, 2014. In a few years, illegal mining has wiped out about 58.000 hectares of forested areas, poisoning rivers with 30 to 40 tons of mercury being dumped into its basins every year. AFP PHOTO/CRIS BOURONCLE (Photo credit should read CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
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