Huaypetue gold mining
Huaypetue gold mining
Huaypetue gold mining
Huaypetue gold mining
Huaypetue gold mining; Health problems
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
26 Jul 2000
- Near Masuko
- -13.10113 -70.36726
- 6:40 - 11:53
- Near Huaypetue
- -13.02312 -70.53188
- 34:37 - 1:09:45
- -13.02312 -70.53188
- 1:11:06 - 1:57:53
- SONY TCD-D7
Stereo=2: 1=L, 2=R; Decoded MS stereo
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Log of DAT #: 3
Engineer: Leo Del Aguila
Date: July 2000
ng = not good
g = good
vg = very good
Tim Currie (TC)
Anton Seimon (AS)
Peter Zahler (PZ)
Paolo Greer (PG)
John Nielsen (JN)
Leo del Aguila (LD)
1:07 -Leo: Day 3 of our trek. Van: We're on the outskirts of Maszuko, getting ready to go across the river to Huaypetue. It's about 8 am, it's about 65, it's a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and we're the center of attention as usual. Leo: (hears distortion and decides to change batteries)
1 :58-Leo: Fresh batteries, so here we go.
2:10-AMBI-walking. Some slight chatter.
2:34-Voices, talking to Leo in Spanish. Thumping sounds like packing a car?
4:05-FX VG-squeaking noise as a motor starts ... revvs up then dies down to voices. Afterwards, some chat about where everyone is from.
5:46-John: Day 3
6:00-John: Day 3, on a boat, on a river, on the way to a mining town.
6:08-FX-Boat starts up, revvs a few times. Some voices, a little chatter as the boat starts off into the river.
6:41-John: Tell me what (place) is?
PZ: It's a gold mining town that doesn't exist on any map, at least in Peru, it's a town of at least 10,090 people, probably the second largest town in the area. It's an incredible catastrophe, it's an utter disaster in terms of environmental effects in the area. Possibly as much as 100,000 sq. kilometers of just destruction in the area. Unregulated gold mining primarily has been doing it. A lot of mercury poisoning in the water. And it's a disaster not just in terms of conservation effect on the forest but also on the people as well. And there's not much living there, and the peopl4e shouldn't be living there either because it's pretty much of a toxic waste.
7:32-John-It's basically everybody's worst nightmare when it comes to what you might see when you build a road. PZ: Absolutely. A road comes into an area like this and pretty soon you have just sort of uncontrolled development and there's very little taxes and no government in the area.
7:57-John: Is (name) between the two parks? PZ: (place) is actually right actually on the boarder of (blah) and (blah) which is the nature reserve and considered to have some of the highest biodiversity in the world and it's very near Manu. It's about a 30 to 50 mile wide corridor between the two parks. John (cutting in): Manu is another biological reserve. PZ :It's a world heritage site. A national park and (place) sits right in between them in the 50 mile wide corridor.
8:28-John: Does it affect the parks? PZ: Hard to say at this point, you have to look at the rivers and the drainage system, it doesn't seem as if a lot of the stuff from the place is going into the parks at this moment but development is spreading. It's certainly going to affect both parks eventually. And it also affects in terms of the fact that um it blocks any sort of corridor conductivity between the two parks. The road comes right in between the two parks and cuts them in two. And the development as it spreads is effectively going to really isolate the two parks.
9:08-John: And when you all go there, what is it that you're looking for? PZ: To (place)? We're just trying to document the effects on the area at this point trying to get an idea as to really what is happening there and what kind of destruction is occurring there and what kind of destruction is spreading and report back to the governments to let them know that some sort of regulatory work needs to be done.
9:44-John: Name rank and serial number just to go on tape.
9:47-PZ: Peter Zahler (PZ) conservation biologist wildlife conservation society.
10:04-John: In the thing you wrote, you described it as something out of Dante's inferno, is it fair to say that? Peter: Yeah. John (sets him up for that line)
10:25-John: Day 3, on a river, headed toward the town of (something) which is a place that PZ of the wildlife foundation describes as a place that is something out of Dante's inferno. PZ: It's a catastrophe. It's an environmentally hideous place, it's on a river that's essentially been destroyed, the water's orange, the sky is orange, the town is on stilts and sinking. Dead dogs and pigs, and vultures perched everywhere. It's an incredible site but it's utterly horrifying. John: It's a mining town. PZ: It's a mining town. It's the second largest town in the area though it's not officially listed on any maps. It's probably about 10K people, they've been mining gold out of the river for a number of years now and they use a lot of mercury, so of course the river itself is just incredibly poison at this point. John: So it would be everybody's worst nightmare when it comes to worrying or wondering about what it is that a big new, easy to travel road can do to an area. PZ: Absolutely. Umn, it's a classic example of development run rampant. You have a town that has utterly no restrictions the gold is being torn out of the river, the river has been torn to bits, the jungle has been torn to bits fir miles in every direction. And the people are being poisoned as well so it's a no win situation.
12:25-AMBI: on the boat going toward the mining town.
13:51-Boat finally died down all the way, small chatter for a moment, then picks up and begins moving again. To another place. Slows eventually to an idle ...parking?
15:21-Boat stops and then starts again. Stops shortly after. Bumping noises of docking? Soft chatter in the background.
17:07 -Stops down a moment.
17:09-AMBI-New audio, someone speaking in spanish a little, and sound of walking on loose rocks. Lots of rock kicking noises. Small chatter, loud rocks.
18:05-New audio, in a ... market? Several people chatting. Leo talking.
18:58-Leo going to take the sound off the harbor. Someone wants to say that he loves Leo
19:16-Ambience begins. Squeaking noise like a rubber duck, soft voices in the background. Rather quiet, not too active sound.
21 :56-Dog barks once, then child's voice. Sound of airplane going overhead. Child cries. Soft call of a vulture? Footsteps after a few minutes.
23:17-Voice: Buenos Dias. (fades out after reply)
23:27-Leo: Continuing to record the sound, people curious what the (ahem) he's doing. Whole bunch of stalls, kids running around, communication things in the background, people selling merchandise, dogs, pretty nasty little town, thatched roofs, and I see a satellite TV kind of thing.
24:08-Ambience begins. All those things he listed above. Also sounds of cars or vehicles shuddering by.
29:08-FX-ok Strangled cry by a rooster.
29:30-FX-Car horn beeps. Several times. Sound of a thumping against something hard. Eventual chatter in Spanish.
30: 18-truck approaching, then driving by as some chatter goes on in the background. Truck comes up and stops, chattering workers
31: 15-FX-Dumping or shoveling something into a hard container against the
background of a barking dog, and a rooster crowing. Good few seconds of ambience. Leo goes to black after this.
32:07-Fades back in. Leo: Giving instructions to someone regarding the equipment.
General chatter amongst people about what to do with equipment.
33 :03-Voice: Just something, the road is rough. These bars will crush your ribs, do stuff. So you kinda want to hold on (chatter) Generally you can see when there's gonna be a bad jolt but you know. (going on chatter)
34:27-A banana salesman on the megaphone. Anton: That's just a banana salesman.
34:37-Anton: We're leaving (somewhere) which is a settlement up from (somewhere2) which is also the point where the road leads from the? river to ? and along the way you'll see various settlements. (interrupted by female voice and chuckles) Going to pass many settlements that are mostly agricultural. Which is different, since we're coming up on this massive mining community. But these small settlements feed people and the long term effects of bringing the roads and development here. And long after the mining moves, there will be agricultural activity in the forest that will not grow back. Road's pretty rough, bumpy, couple river crossings in the wet season are spectacular because the car actually gets carried downstream as you sort of rush across. Very interesting, first time being on a floating vehicle. Probably going to be a dusty crossing this time because it's been so dry. We're passing a combination of nature develop-(cut off by Spanish chatter and laughing)
36:25-Chatter along the road. Various voices.
36:34-All voices: Pare! Pare! Pare! (Someone lost a hat so they stop and let someone get it)
37:30-Voices: Chatting about roads and whatnot.
37:47-A: He's saying that they're building a road and connect to? and stay on the same side of the river as ? which will not require this river crossing that we just did. So if you have a direct road you don't have to use car and truck ferries and you can develop the area much more rapidly. What I'll mention is that the sign says this is an official government project, didn't read exactly what it said but the funding is from the government. The rainforest here is mostly clears out along the road. Probably been cleared out once before and is starting to grow back. In the distance we can see the solid wall of rainforest. Typical pattern of the Amazon. Lots of cattle. ( chat) They chopped down the forest and grew area to grow pasture for cattle. Cattle are far more important than rainforest apparently.
39:12-Pause, short rumbling.
39:18-Van: Could you tell us about this mode of transportation. Anton: This is very standard pickup truck, ? Found throughout the developing world. Flatbed pickup with a metal cage on the back for people to hold on to. This is the emptiest one I've ever been on, about 7 of us on here, and normally 25-30 people, couple animals would be more normal. (new chatter about something else, then pause for ambience)
40:04-Van: These trucks would make the trips how many times a day? Anton: My experience is that it would be every 45 minutes or so. Midday seems to be a low period. People sort of going in and out of? or have reason to in the mornings and evenings, afternoons mostly. But people use these tracks for other reasons. A woman was coming in with three bags of agric. Products as we were leaving. Not a lot of private vehicles out here so basically any vehicle that runs is probably transport.
40:46-AMBI/FX Pause in speech, and ambience of bouncing car. VG. Shuddering noises and occasional chatter.
41 :44-Anton: Behind us a bulldozer is working on the river here. You can hear them picking up tons of river sediment. We're on the river? and on the riverbank right now. It picks up the sediment and dumps them on these enormous sieves to try and wash out the finer sediment that carries the gold. And this is the basic process that mining has. It's very sort of simple and clumsy but ultimately they are able to extract an enormous amount of gold simply by processing an enormous amount of riv~r alluvium.
42:23-John: Unfortunately it's also incredibly destructive. Anton: Yeah, the first thing you have to do to get at the sediment is to remove the rainforest on top. And then you go deeper and deeper, so you destroy the soils totally. What you end up with is a situation where the rainforest, which of course holds much of the biomass is first removed, then the soils wash away, and then you've turned to very dead sediment. So nothing will grow. Add 20 ft of rain a year, which is what you get around here, and just keeps all that nutrition leeched out. Approaching the actual? river which is this brown orange slurry with an enormous amount of sediment and looks quite awful. And this is because of all the mining upstream and all the sort of filtering of the sediment that's going on. And a mix of chemicals added as part of the gold extraction process.
43:35-John: If you don't look at the forest in the distance then it kinda looks like you're in the middle of a desert with a river running through it. Anton: Yeah.
43:42-Van: The process of mining here, is it typical of rudimentary kind of amazon mining?
43:49-Anton: There are different types there are, um, someplaces a lot of mining is in bedrock, but this is kinda unusual because this is at the foot of the Andes and the actual source of the gold is very rich veins in the mountains nearby after very heavy precipitation have washed the gold into the? so this is a process of what used to be called plasta mining because it was sort of performed in the old fashioned gold panning method. What's happened is taking gold panning to a new level by instead of using pans they use front end loading bulldozers and there are 100s if not 1000s working at processing that enormous amount of sediment. So in in Brazil there (Anton moves him to block the wind)
44:56-In brazil there are some famous gold rushes taking place where it's more like there's a bunch of bedrock carrying an enormous amount of raw material, or ? so they tend to dig downward and they tend to dig outward. So the horizontal destruction is enormous. ? they have the very famous imagery of people scrambling vertically through the sediment that way. You'll see sort of? on the horizontal scale. And it extends for an enormous area. (fading to background then back up). Bunch of forest recently cleared here, you can see a bunch of tree stumps in the wall of the remaining forest .25 mile into the distance.
46:00-Wind noise brushes the mic.
46:07-New Audio. Voice (leo?): Yeah, exactly, like you're throwing up. And in the process you may need to hold me, so don't fly off. (Chatter)
46:27-Anton: Deforestation, mining things like that, (something) running through all that nasty stuff we were just looking at. John: Yeah.
46:45-John: This is the Peruvian equivalent of a bus. Anton: Yeah, not just Peruvian but all over the developing world, pickup trucks are what transport most people. And what is a four-seater pickup in the US is a 35-seater out here, or stander as the case may be. Doesn't have many animals, bags of grain and everything else in between, the kitchen sink often sometimes. This is how you really get to know the people in the back of pickups.
47:33-John: I noticed that there were some pasture land back there, some cattle, and some horribly polluted rivers. How do the two coexist? Anton: The river is, the pollution we see, is probably just sediment being washed down. A great deal of mud is being carried in the water from the mining operations upstream. But yeah, it's probably the? there's going to be mercury introduced, cyanide. Things which are incredibly toxic to the environment. The cattle ranching is very common throughout the Amazon basin and is probably the single most destructive activity as far as rainforest is concerned because to raise cattle you need grass and you need pasture, but in order to get grass you have to remove the forest. So it's very very easy to establish them, all we have to do is cut and burn the forest and grass will grow. They have the process going on right behind us as we're driving by. We've cut the forest and they'll probably be burning it within a few weeks. And sure enough in a couple more months, we'll probably have pasture growing here and the cattle will be able to feed. By removing the forest, you remove the biomass as well as the actual nutrition which is hell for the canopy. And it doesn't simply grow back once you're finished raising your cattle. John: Or at least it doesn't grow back in a way that most of us might imagine it, that it would just spring back. Anton: And when you add 20 feet of rain, which is what you get here, all the minerals which are important for growing get washed away or get leeched through the soil and you know, the land loses its fertility very fast.
49:24-John: Why is ? here? Anton: It's here because we're at the base of the mountains carries a large amount of gold bearing rock and the heavy precipitation on the rock over millions of years created this huge outwash plain of sediment that's all come down from the mountains and let this residue out here that contains tiny tiny flecks of gold in great quantities, and the mining is all about trying to get at those tiny flecks from an enormous amount of other material. And in order to get the gold out of there, you're going to have to process all that material and people do it at great cost to the environment.
50: 15-John: Is there a way to do it that is not tremendously costly to the environment. Anton: That's a difficult question. Conceivably, it could be done with mechanized mining if the process was very controlled. But as the land is processed, it is also reworked and the nutrition reintroduced. Or better yet, if it were somehow a subterranean operation somehow beneath the forest without having to remove the forest. What happens is there's no emphasis placed on reforestation afterwards the? to replace the forest after you've worked it. In the US and Canada major strip mining operations by law have to insure that after they've worked an area, they kinda fill in the hole and move on, and try to reestablish what was there before. Obviously it's not going to be perfect, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Yeah there are no such formal efforts made.
51: 12-John: What's the life cycle of a mine or operation like this? How long is it before they have to move on to the next place.
51 :23-Anton: Basically as soon as they've tilled all the sediment. And the sediment, which is typically something like 100 feet deep takes a while to go through, but they run these bulldozers around the clock. Processing the alluvium, the sediment. And so they cover a lot of area, if you consider that a patch of something, like, say 8 miles by 20 miles has been totally removed by now, or forest, and that's taken place mostly in the last 8 years. That'll give you the sense that this is actually a very rapid process indeed. John: I take it you wouldn't advise drinkin' any of that water. Anton: No, I wouldn't advise that.
52:19-John: How did you come to?
52:23-Anton: Stumbled upon it. Didn't come here to study this. I came here to study the road building but I kept hearing references to this place. And it was perplexing because it seemed like everybody knew about it but few people had been there. It was in the local area. I tried to find things written about it and could find nothing. Even about the local region I couldn't find anything written about this place and it doesn't appear on any local map. But there's obviously was this large entity called? so I had the opportunity to come here a couple of years back and I was passing by? and they said that it's only an hour and a half to ? do you wanna go? And I said okay, I want to go. And so I sort of followed what the locals were doing and I came here and I was sort of staggered by what I saw because this is such a large place. And the destruction is so complete and extensive, and I just found it bewildering that nothing was known about this place outside of the absolute immediate area.
53:25-John: It's my understanding that as the price of gold has fallen internationally, there's been less mining around the world and in particular here. Is it a concern of yours as you investigate the effects of the transoceanic highway (TOH) that if the highway goes through then it's easier to move gold about and the price of extraction falls and the industry is revived?
53:51-Anton: Sure, um, the best safeguard to the environment when it comes to gold mining is the low price of gold. That's always been the case, and in the history of the? you can trace the gold booms to fluctuations in the international price of gold as much as anything else. Gold's always been here and people have always known about it but it's expensive and difficult to extract. Especially by local standards. Materials cost a lot. For example, to run all these front end loaders, you need an enormous amount of diesel. To get diesel down here, is a very difficult process. Yesterday we shared the road with trucks carrying diesel and pretty much nothing else down from the highlands. At least 30 trucks a day each carrying 3400 gallons, much of which is destined for this area to run things like those front end loaders. So yeah, if we have a better road that you can drive in all seasons, the present road is already not drivable during the rainy season. It becomes extremely difficult in the rainy season. It could certainly increase the degree of activity we have here. Ultimately the international price of gold will dictate what is viable and what it not. The boom in ? seems to have occurred in different phases, but the tension, you know the activities really sort of ramped up in the 1980s getting a flux of people down here, because in 1980 the international price of gold peaked so to say to about $800/oz. Now it's sitting at about $280 in comparison. So gold became extremely lucrative and interesting. However, in this area at the time, gold mining was classic? mining where basically it was gold panning. Very low scale pick and shovel kind of thing you could wash alluvium and you could do it very simply and there was no mechanization. The real revolution occurred in this area early in the 1990s where a group of miners got the idea that despite this area's isolation, they figured they'd be able to transport heavy machinery here, these front end loaders. And what's more, a supply of diesel to ensure that those front end loaders kept operating. And some kind of deal was brokered with international companies, that makes these machines to import them in enormous numbers. My understanding is that they were flown into Cusco something like 3 at a time and driven down, all the way over the mountains on the route we just took to get into this area. It probably took a raft across the river. And I can't get an absolute count of who many of these machines were imported, but the lowest estimate I've heard is 400 and the highest is 2000. I keep hearing 880. In any case, these machines revolutionized what was going on here, because it suddenly became very easy to process an enormous amount of sediment to get at the gold. And there was immediate success and wealth. Which coincided with a blip in the price of gold where it was probably elevated to what it is now. And some early fortunes were made.
57:58 JN: Who profits? Is there any local profit?
AS: the real profits seem to evaporate somewhere, and it's a real mysterious thing to know where they go. A lot of the people working very busily on these claims strangely enough are heavily in debt. What they do is they get some ford capital to basically (TRUCK PASSING BY, HORN HONKING) the bulldozers are the key to wealth. The only problem is the front end loaders. They call them (spanish). They're the key to wealth, only problem is their unbelievably expensive especially to poor people. So the way it works has been explained to me by the miners is this: a group of 8 or 10 miners will pool resources together to make a down payment on one of these machines. The machines run anywhere between 150 and 250 thousand US dollars. They will put 15 thou dollars, that's all it takes to get the companies to agree to bring the machine down from the highlands. They front that money and then they're on a payment schedule that, say, every 4 weeks they have to pay 7 1/2 thousand US dollars servicing that loan on the bulldozer. This means that every month they have to mine, to generate at least that much money in gold. And any thing else they generate in that time, well that's their little profit. And that's whats going to pay for various people.
So what happens is you get a group of people putting up the initial money. They then immediately hire on all kinds of other poeple on the promise that hey, once we get enuf money, we're gonna pay you really well. So a lot of people actually work without salary. Just sort of on the trust that theyre gonna get a piece of the pie at the end of it. But theres not a guarantee that they actually will get a piece of it, and whats more, if the international gold price were to drop say 10 dollars in that month, you suddenly have a problem where they have to mine even more sediment to get more gold. The calculation I've heard is that you have to extract 73 grams of gold a day in order to service that debt. This also gives you an idea to estimate how much gold must be coming out of this area. Because if you have a certain number of bulldozers operating your-we should really stop for a photo here-
CONVERSATION IN SPANISH
1:02:28 JN: who profits?
AS: the bulldozer companies profit. Ok? Which are volvo case and caterpillar. Oops, don't sue me. 3 companies, they are making a mint. Whats more, if the miners or one of these cooperatives default on their loan, the machine is repossessed and immediately there's a group of other miners who are waiting for one of these things. Another thing that happens because of the system of being indebted, is that you have to work your machine 24 hours a day. So they operate in typically 8 hours shifts where they run these things, and they've got diesel generators sort of generating electrical lights out there on the sites, ... they run pumps as well to process the alluvium after its been sifted, and basically this goes on 24 hours a day in order to make enuf money to pay back the loan and try to generate a profit. Again when they international price of gold is high, profits easy to come by, and when the international price is low like it is right now, some of these enterprises go belly up very quickly. So it's a really unstable operation. But the average worker is the person who's really getting trodden upon because they come down here in the hope of some opportunity some kind of salary, and what often happens is that they'11 go months without being paid. With a promise, basically of everything will be taken care of. There was a real problem here years ago, the company store phenomenon, where all these workers had to buy everything from, where the merchants had a monopoly on, say, food. Food supplies. Now theres much more free enterprise and youll see the merchants in Hueypetue selling all kinds of stuff and the prices are generally favorable to Cuzco. People complain about the high prices here, and some things like actually fuel, is cheaper than up in the highlands because its govt subsidized.
1 :04:33 JN: lemme play the devils advocate. So we're about to see a mining operation, that's horrible. Does that mean that someone needs to say to the Peruvians up and down the road you can't have good transportation, you lose your right ot get around in an easy manner cuz there might be a mining operation?
AS: no, these are 2 independent things, but both of them need regulation and good planning. Both of them sort of have varying degrees of regulation but rather shortsighted planning and I think that's the problem. In the case of hueypetue, the govt response until very recently has been to pretty much ignore the reality of the place. In doin so basically they miss out on a large influx of revenue that should be generated. Or perhaps there is some way this revenue is captured. Its very hard to trace that. But as far as the mgmt of it, esp on the environmental side, the govt has been very negligent in actually making sure that mining is done in any kind of responsible manner. We're going to go look for a gentleman in town, telfio (?), he is a civic activist. He's not a miner, he's a shop owner. However he calls himself a representative of the community and he's campaigned for years to try to get the govt involved to do things like reforest the stripped areas to bring drinking water, to bring civil services to town, and he's always received a stonewall response from the state officials here. Its sort of mysterious as to why that is. It suggests that theres a pretty strong vein of corruption that runs down that says some people are profiting and its in their best interests to make sure that hueypetue remains an ignored entity. And relatively unknown.
1 :06;56 JN; well is it possible that if you build a better road that increases the visibility of a place like this and pressure builds for it to be improved?
AS: yeah it would sorta force that to happen.
JN: so why not build the road?
AS: no well theres already a road that sees 30 trucks a day.
AS: theres a classic gold worker, see him sitting on top of the mine dump? There are vultures are everywhere. Its almost laughable how cliche it is, the vultures hanging on to everything.
See theres a gold working operation on top of a mine dump. JN: describe that a little more vividly. We're looking someplace where .. .it's the moon.
AS: yeah, it's the moon. We're in this incredibly beautiful zone of tropical rainforest where on either side of the road for about a mile its cleared for cattle pasture but then looking to the west towards the mountains you can see this area that's been totally stripped and you can see the bright yellow of heavy machinery sitting atop these enormous piles of gravel. About 100 feet high. What you have is the front end loaders are piling the sediment that was brought down from the mountains into large dump trucks. The dump trucks then drive up these ramps to the tops of these mine dumps where there are these rickety structures containing these huge sieves. And they dump their loads onto the sieves, the large rocks are quickly separated out and the small stuff falls thru. Beneath the sieve you've got a pump running on diesel spraying water tons and tons of water on the stuff to wash away the finer material. And in the finer material is where you find the gold. A whole truckload of stuff gets processed to extract a small amount of this slurry and then that slurry they extract the gold, typically using mercury.
1 :09:27 We started seeing this destruction quite a few miles back and as we continue driving itll just continue to broaden until it eventually occupies most of what you see.
JN: is there any sign that theyre doing it any better than they used to in terms of
1: 10:22 TIM CURRIE (TC): that's insane. I've been here for 4 years and I didn't know hueypetue existed until 3 1/2 weeks ago. I've never seen anything like it. I've seen my share of deforestation but this is lunar. This is just wholesale mass destruction.
JN: lunar with vultures. TC: its tragic. AS: you can see the whole story of the amazon. TC: man its tragic I cant believe it.
1:11:06 FX: DOG BARKING FAR OFF
AS: I can see the whole sort of Amazon reality of today where in the distance on one side you've got a solid wall of virgin rainforest, then you've got cut and burned areas, then cattle pasture. Across the road here you've got the same cattle pasture, the whole process is repeated but then even further beyond you've got this waste land of the mine dumps from the Hueypetue operations.
1:11:35 FX: BIRD CHIRPS FLYING BY
1:11 :38 FX: FOOTSTEPS
1:11:48 FX: FLY BUZZING
1: 11 :54 PZ: one of the strangest things about this is the contrast. you have the andes mtns off in the distance with snow capped peaks, and down here in a tropical rainforest where its hot and humid, its gorgeous and green off in the distance where you actually have rain forests. And then off a little ways to the west we just have incredible destruction with this orange silt as far as the eye can see, vultures flying around. Its confusing.
JN: its like whether you want to have your left eye or your right eye open almost.
1:12:43 FX: METALLIC BONK
VARIOUS CONVERSATIONS IN SPANISH, OFF MIC
1:13:57 END OF THAT SCENE
1 :14:06 (TRUCK IS UNDERWAY) AS: we're starting to get into hueypetue right now. We're climbing up a hill that's gonna go past the police post. We're driving just above the zone where more permanent structures in town are, there's a schoolhouse, a few hotels, basically this is the older settlements that are elevated above the river. The river's just coming into view now, a big broad greasy very shallow flooded plain. This part of town has a sense of permanence about it. The main part of town-looks like this pickup's going to drop us off-is anything but permanent. What happens is, because they've sort or built it on this river plain, and theyre throwing all the sediment in the river, the level of the river just keeps rising and rising, the river bank basically, and the town fills up with sand. There are now supposedly 7 layers of hueypetue. They have to keep building the town on top of itself cuz its keeps getting submerged in a sea of sand.
Oh we have marching band .... the school.
1:15:20 AMB: MARCHING BAND
1:15:34 FX: HORNS
AS: Hueypetue. This town does not exist. PZ: ramshackle shacks built on stilts ...
AS: the typical structure, on stilts, made of sawn timber, sawn by chain saw, zinc roofs, very basic ... electrical wiring all over the place, electric lights in place ... these are some new things that have come in quite recently.
BETH WALD (BW): you can see old buildings are sunken.
AS: basically facing the town here you've got these huge mine dumps, some of the gold works in operations, though they're probably being worked over a second time here, trying to get 3ven more gold out of them. JN: there's a bunch of half submerged houses out there in the middle of the big orange river.
AS: yeah. This is not the place you want to build a town firstly, with a large river and enormous rainfall around, but the other thing you have is that all these mining operations are introducing a n enormous amount of sediment again into the river. So the river base keeps moving upward and submerging the town in sand. You can see bldgs continuously have to be abandoned and rebuilt uphill.
PZ: the vultures out there like pigeons, just standing around on the riverbanks.
1: 17:28 AS: Teofillo tells us when he came here first in 84, this was an incredibly beautiful valley with a river that was 7 feet wide. The river conservatively you could say its probably on the order of a thousand feet wide now.
We're now going down one of the main streets here. Lots of commerce, lots of activity. Stores selling everything. Restaurants ....
VOICE OFF MIC: welcome to Dodge City.
1:18:24-1:19:58 AMB: PEOPLE GETTING OFF THE TRUCK~ACTIVITY AROUND, DOGS BARKING, HORNS HONKING, MOTORS IDLING, MUSIC
1 :20: 16 JN: can you walk backwards a little bit? OK. Welcome to dodge city. This is Peru's version of dodge city anyway.
LD: start again, get me a level.
JN: OK. Welcome to dodge city, at least Peru's version anyway. Ramshackle collection of hundreds of shops spilling down a river bank into a vast orange flow of water, you can hardly call it a river anymore. Front loaders, nasty dogs, terrible place. Gold mining town.
1:21:49 LD: ok we're in this dodge city of a town. Pretty nasty, AS is being pretty good at describing everything. But I'm just walking thru the main drag once again, its really a river bed. I'm going to be recording the sounds of just ambi unless something changes here since JN is gonna be here. ETC
1:22:25--AMB: THE TOWN (OUTSIDE)
1 :22:54 FX: TRUCK GOES BY
JN: if you look out in the middle of the river you can see what used to be the edge of town, half submerged. I saw one town that had a sign on it that said caution, do not throw garbage here. Lets just call that ironic. The houses have vultures on top of them, they're all sunning themselves. Lot of vultures around here. But whats also interesting, if you look in these stores, theyre just jammed with merchandise. Theres women and children, theres families (LOUD HORN CLOSE BY), clearly theres still gold around here. (TRUCK PASSES BY CLOSE)
1 :24: 18 JN: I'm sure this is what gold rush towns in CA looked like all those many years ago, excpet in those towns you had people panning individually for gold, and here you have gigantic machines. Machines that are bigger than anything I've ever seen before. For some reason they remind me of the Pac man dots on one of those video games, they just gobble up everything.
1:24:45-1:32:36 AMB: ACTIVITY, MUSIC IN BACKGROUND, VOICES,
1:25:19 FX: SOMETHING SMALL CLATTERING IN A BOX
1 :25:37 FX: SAME THING
1:26:38 AMB: "MY SHARONA" IN BKGRND
1 :26:53 FX: TRUCK GOES BY
1:28:10 AMB: "MY SHARONA" IN FOREGROUND
1 :29:34 AMB: SONG FADES AWAY, REPLACED BY SOMETHING ETHNIC
1 :30:30 FX: TRUCK PASSES IN PUDDLE
1 :30:40 FX: ELECTRONIC BEEPING
1 :30:52 FX: HORNS
1:31 :28 FX; HORNS, TRUCK PASSING
1 :32:04 FX: TRUCK PASSES IN PUDDLE
1 :32:42 (NEW SCENE) LD: this guy is actually blowing fire into gold
1:32:46-1 :33:11 FX: ACETYLENE TORCH HISSING FIRE
1:33:15--AMB: OPERATION IN GOLD SHOP, RADIO IN BKGRND
1:33:24 FX: METALLIC KNOCKING
1:33:29 FX: PUTTING DOWN THE TONGS
1:33:33 FX: METAL JINGLING IN CUP
1:33:52 FX: SIFTING TINY PIECES OF GOLD
1:32:32 CONVERSATION IN SPANISH ABOUT THE TRANSACTION
1:34:54 FX: METAL CLATTERING
1:35:11 FX: BILLS BEING COUNTED
1:35:12 FX: RADIO SAYS "PUERTO, PUERTO, PUERTO"
1:35:18 FX: CONVERSATION IN SPANISH
1:35:37 FX: BILLS BEING COUNTED
1:35:57 AS: this gentleman just brought in gold that they've processed. The owner of the gold buying operation just blasted it with heat to extract any additional mercury or residue, and it came out to be 585 soles, and that was just paid. A little transaction. I'm gonna ask the owner a few questions.
1:36:24-1:37:52 CONVERSATION IN SPANISH
1 :37:53 AS: Holding here about 20-25 fragments of gold being extracted ...
MORE CONVERSATION IN SPANISH
TC: about $280 US is the international price of gold theyre using based on the Lima stock exchange at the present time.
MORE CONVERSATION IN SPANISH
1 :39: 1 0 TC; the international price of gold is discounted by 2% to offset what's like a commission rate which is what is covered by Lima. That is then broken down from ounces cuz the international price of gold is based in ounces, into grams, for calculating the price of sale. Initially the gentleman said that this is a private enterprise like many in town, that specialize in buying direct from the miners and then selling it to international buyers in Lima .... one second ...
... I just asked if the gold buyers they dealt with in Lima were national enterprises or foreign enterprises and he said there are various that they utilize.
1 :42:04 TC: I also asked how the system basically works for transporting the gold here in Hueypetue which is basically in the middle of nowhere. Diesel takes two days to get down from Cusco from truck-how they transport the gold to Lima to their buyers. The gentlemen has indicated there are daily flights here from Hueypetue via Cuzco but they send the gold up on and that is then transferred to lima 5 kilos at a time by a representative. Once it gets to Lima then they can receive their payment. But the rough gold here first has to be transferred to oro fino, the fine gold that is sold in bars, the international standard.
1 :44:20 FX: RADIO TRANSMITTING, DISTORTED
1:47:00 LD TALKS WITH SHOP OWNER IN SPANISH
TC: this gentleman says that here in Hueypetue, this town that exists now in about 2 or 3 years quite possibly could be a ghost town, it could be nothing. The gold in his opinion is almost tapped out, is almost used. And people ... gold mining in the Amazon is transient, so people will go where the gold is. A couple years is what he gives it at the most.
GUY IN SPANISH
TC: the gentleman says also this phenomenon has happened in places like quince mil and in other areas. The mining in quince mil is a little bit different, its in sediment up there, the gold is mostly in bedrock. But once again reiterating that things are very temporary, are very transient. IN SPANISH
GUY ANSWERS IN SPANISH
TC: I asked what's gonna happen once all the mining operations stop in 2 or 3 years if that's the way its gonna be. And the gentleman inferred that who knows? Maybe the natural (?) will come back, maybe it won't. essentially it will, but the areas pretty deprived pretty depraved, its pretty worked over and destroyed in this zone.
GUY IN SPANISH
1:51:00 LD: there will not be as much of a big operation anymore, there will be some people left over, but ...
TC: the gentleman mentioned that the type of operation that is employed here to mine leaves nothing, it takes everything, to strip the forest, to strip the vegetation, to take every part of, to the last gram of gold if they can find it in large scale operation, and then move on. Just leave everything. What may exist afterwards is just small gold panning operations. He mentioned that afterwards there wont be any cattle left there wont be any trees left there wont be any grass left, there wont be anything. It'll be small scale, just ma and pa gold panning on the side of the river. That's it.
GUY IN SPANISH
TC: The manner of working here, as the gentleman stated earlier, is just to use everything, to work indiscriminately were his exact words. Without rules, without safeguards, without check valves. Just to take, extract, exploit, exploit, exploit, exploit. Until it all falls, then move on.
GUY IN SPANISH
1:53 :57 TC: the gentleman also just mentioned that the certain health problems, directly resulting from the wholesale use of mercury to extract gold from the rock from the sediment that is rough mined out in the field ... paralysis, whatever, there's a million things that he rambled off. Just the harsh health concerns. Talking to this gentleman is quite ....
GUY IN SPANISH
TC: in regards to health, the gentleman just asked me when we arrived here, and I told him this morning, we just arrived in Hueypetue today, and he said by tomorrow you're gonna start to have problems with your health. Stomach problems, diarrhea, it's directly resulting from mercury. Wait and see.
1:54:53-1:55:47 AMB: GOLD SHOP CONVERSATION, TRAFFIC OUTSIDE, HORNS
1:55:45 JN: how does this process work? Just tell us, we've already seen it, but what did we just see?
PAOLO GREER (PG): what we're looking at here is a retort for separating the mercury from the gold. They bring in fine gold, and they catch the fine gold with mercury. And then they have to take the mercury out in order to sell the gold. So what we have here is a basic retort, where you put the mercury and the gold in together, and you heat up with a torch the both of them. The mercury turns to gas and goes away. It works fairly well for that. we're in town ...now on the wall next to this retort we have a map (that is apparently required by law) that shows you how to do it right. That is, the gases from the mercury go into water, precipitate, and come out as a solid. If that doesn't happen, you get a lot of infirmities. Right outside of this wall ...
JN: so if it goes into the water...
PG: if it goes into the water then it turns into a solid ...
JN: and it comes out safe...
PG: you don't breathe the gas, it comes out safe.
JN: we wanta know if this is safe, we go around and look on the other side.
PG: if you go look at the other side of this wall, you have an eatery outside where they're eating fish that are tainted with mercury and breathing the fumes of the mercury that are coming out of this retort. There are probably hundreds of these here in this town. And this fellow over here was just telling us, when did you get here? Just today? The guy that works in the shop. He says well, by tomorrow you should be having stomach problems from mercury. And diarrhea. So, its endemic here. What is also more insidious is the mercury in the mines that escapes the gold washing process, gets in the river, and goes downstream. Now we can't tell these people not to mine, but we can help not kill people downstream. This a very very serious problem here, very insidious problem. It doesn't kill you right away, that's what people....so we got a retort that works to take th mercury out, but it takes it out of the gold and puts it in the air for the villagers to breathe.
JN: and right next to it we have a sign that says it can be done right, here's how you do it.
PG: and they know how to do it, and this must be here because its required by law. And yet, apparently the law doesn't stop the people from doing, from breathing the mercury.
1:57:56-1:58:48 AMB-GOLD SHOP, CONVERSATION IN SPANISH, HORNS, TRAFFIC
1 :58:53 LD: ok we're in the truck and we're working our way over to the mine.
1:59:01-2:06:24 AMB: ON THE TRUCK GOING TO THE MINING OPERATION
1:59:02 FX: TRUCK DOOR OPENS
1:59:23 FX: MUSIC AS WE PASS BY
1:59:59 FX: HORN
2:00:32 FX: TRUCK BEGINS GOING THRU WATER
2:01:45 FX: PLANE GOES OVERHEAD
2:03:55 FX: BELCHING OF BIG MACHINE (?)
2:04:48 FX: DIESEL MOTOR PUMP
2:06:28 LD: let's continue on. We're continuing here, yes.
2:06:45 AMB: ON THE TRUCK
2:07:02 END OF DAT