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Nightmare in the Andes
July 24, 2012 6:43 AM   Subscribe

The highest inhabited settlement on Earth is La Rinconada, Peru, at 5100 meters above sea level. It is a hellscape.
posted by Chrysostom (28 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hellscape? A goldmine city on the top of a mountain with no regulations, government, or police...it's a libertarian paradise!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2012 [44 favorites]


The 2nd link does a great job of leading someone new to the topic from geography to economy to social organization.

Fascinating stuff, thanks.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:55 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


Imagining the level of desperation that would make me decide that living in a toxic waste dump at the same altitude as the Everest base camp was my best choice is sobering.
posted by KGMoney at 6:55 AM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Fascinating stuff, thanks.

Ditto.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 AM on July 24, 2012


A goldmine city on the top of a mountain with no regulations, government, or police...it's a libertarian paradise!

Why do you hate the job creators?

Ahem. I don't know if this is more or less depressing than the Grassburg Mine. The scope of that pit is... pretty hard to grasp -- the technique is called "Mountaintop Removal Mining...."
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:13 AM on July 24, 2012


It's great to see that the company town hasn't completely gone out of style.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:16 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just finished jamming the HBO series Deadwood via Netflix last night, so this is quite timely. So there ain't no law in La Rinconada...
posted by localroger at 7:21 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I clicked on the second link and because of the way it showed up in my browser my first thought was "What the hell are they talking about? This is BEAUTIFUL!" then I scrolled down and oof.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:23 AM on July 24, 2012


The real hellscape is coding a website that puts a big ol' useless slide out tool-tray right over the scrollbar.
posted by Freon at 7:31 AM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Given the cachorreo work system mentioned in each link and the description of the "settlement", I imagine La Rinconada is really just the cold version of Christopher Walken's mining operation in The Rundown.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 7:33 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


A goldmine city on the top of a mountain with no regulations, government, or police...it's a libertarian paradise!

From the first link:
Many miners work at the gold mine owned by CorporaciĆ³n Ananea. Under the cachorreo system they work for 30 days without payment. On the 31st day they are allowed to take with them as much ore as they can carry on their shoulders. Whether the ore contains any gold or not is a matter of luck. The city has no plumbing and no sanitation system. Besides having no sewage system there is significant contamination with mercury due to the mining practices.
Yeah, I....think I'm good where I am.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's great to see that the company town hasn't completely gone out of style.

A bizarre but awesome moment in my life a few months ago involved explaining company towns to a bunch of inner-city eight-year-olds. We would listen to music during math and I played Sixteen Tons a bunch and they really liked it. The first few times they didn't really listen to the words but eventually they'd heard it enough times to start to figure out what was going on and they asked me what a company store was. It was kind of neat explaining to them the basic concept and having them be like "That's not fair!". It took a bit more drawing out to get through the whole line ("St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store") but that's pretty high level thinking and I was very proud of them. It's nice to be able to work in small, unexpected lessons on oppression and injustice.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:39 AM on July 24, 2012 [19 favorites]


I was thinking of hellscaping my lawn but the cost in lava alone was murder.
posted by DU at 7:56 AM on July 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was thinking of hellscaping my lawn but the cost in lava alone was murder.

Move to La Rinconada, and your neighbors will do the work for you!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:43 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was like "where is the part where the rich eat the babies of the poor?"
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on July 24, 2012


This would be a great place for goat people to live. Also, realgoats.
posted by orme at 8:53 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is fucked up and sad, but hey, maybe they'll be laughing all the way to the bank in 100 years when the rest of the world is underwater and they're living high up near the remains of the only natural drinking water left.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:09 AM on July 24, 2012


That was horrible.
posted by subdee at 9:28 AM on July 24, 2012


The city has no plumbing and no sanitation system.

I cannot imagine what it would take to build that in so inhospitable a spot.
posted by merelyglib at 10:27 AM on July 24, 2012


This is one of those things that I find phenomenally hard to process. It there weren't pictures and video, I'd think it were some fictional story. Amazing.
posted by dios at 12:05 PM on July 24, 2012


Think it's a hellscape (great coinage) now?

Just wait until they uncover The Alien.
posted by Twang at 12:46 PM on July 24, 2012


I was thinking of hellscaping my lawn but the cost in lava alone was murder.

Just a murder? That's not bad at all! I had to pay out a triple homicide to cover the wood panelling installation in my volcano lair... and the mortgage on that entire property is just shy of a full Bhopal. Pretty steep, but the location (right off the Highway to Hell) is phenomenal!
posted by FatherDagon at 12:50 PM on July 24, 2012


Wow, makes Leadville, CO look almost cherubic. Still ugly, but... less ugly.
posted by alex_skazat at 2:33 PM on July 24, 2012


This is fucked up and sad, but hey, maybe they'll be laughing all the way to the bank in 100 years when the rest of the world is underwater and they're living high up near the remains of the only natural drinking water left.
Yeah, reading those articles made me flash back to Stephen Baxter's novel Flood. He's even got a scene where native Peruvian workers protest because of pollution in the water supply.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2012


the only natural drinking water left

They're working on changing that with all the mercury they're adding to it.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 7:37 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mountains. Of Madness.
posted by SPrintF at 10:12 PM on July 24, 2012


merelyglib writes "I cannot imagine what it would take to build that in so inhospitable a spot."

Social infrastructure. There is obviously plenty of money sloshing around if the ore is rich enough that you can hand process it like that (for example the huge mill at the mine outside of my town processes gold ore that averages 8 grams per tonne and it's an extremely involved proccess but still worth it considering the price of gold). And while the risks of hypoxia would up the difficulty it certainly couldn't be any worse than say the difficulty with settlements in the high Arctic where for half the year everything you need has to be flown in and for the other six months supplies have to come over an ice road all layered on top of at times mind numbing bitter cold.
posted by Mitheral at 1:48 AM on July 25, 2012


The website linked second looks interesting, but neither my iPad or my computer can handle loading the page in a timely fashion. My tech is pretty new... Too bad!
posted by smalls at 5:44 AM on July 25, 2012


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