Figure of the month: 5,100 metres
News Arnulf Hinkel, financial journalist – 02.12.2019
We already mentioned the world’s deepest gold mines in a previous article on this website; located up to 4,000 meters underground in the Western Deep Levels mining area in South Africa, they are operated by the Anglo Gold Ashanti mining company. Today, we would like to tell you about the world’s highest gold mine, located near the Peruvian town of Rinconada in the Puno region. Strictly speaking, it is the other way around: the settlement is located near the gold mine, as a majority of its residents are miners.
300 metres higher than the Mont Blanc
At 5,100 metres, the highest gold mine in the world at Rinconada is even higher than the Mont Blanc, which rises ‘only’ 4,810 metres above sea level. This comparison might most impressively convey the conditions gold prospectors at Rinconada face while doing their hard work; it is the extremely thin air. Oxygen is scarce at this altitude. Due to the low air pressure, human lungs can only absorb about half as much oxygen as at sea level. Long-term residents of Rinconada can contract a chronic altitude sickness with potentially fatal consequences. It is an uninviting city, also due to the fact that it has neither running water nor central waste disposal. There has, however, been electricity for some time now.
More than 50,000 people defy altitude
Since Rinconada was founded some 40 years ago, its population has increased steadily, and sharply since the turn of the millennium due to rising gold prices. The reward for these efforts, deprivations and dangers is nothing short of a gamble: workers do not receive any wages, but are allowed to keep all the gold they find on their 31st day of working at the mine.