On our last day in Colquemarca we scheduled a workshop on the topic of informal, or artisan, mining.  We made our way to Jacinto’s house for a demonstration of how he produces small quantities of gold using fairly primitive technology — simple digging tools, an ore grinding stone and small quantities of mercury to concentrate the nearly invisible gold powder into small lumps large enough to sell.  We have heard many things about informal mining in Peru — how common it is, how lucrative it is (or isn’t) and how much the use of mercury, a natural but toxic substance, contaminates the surrounding soil and water while simultaneously poisoning the people who handle it each day.  After hearing, from an academic perspective, about the process and the people who use it to wreak a living out of the soil, we wanted to meet a miner for ourselves, witness his daily work and ask our own questions.  The photos below tell the story.