So exactly how high up is the highest city in the world? How about over 3 miles up in the sky? La Rinconada, Peru is a rare case: an old gold-mining town in a remote location that has grown to ‘major city’ status, and stayed there. Over 30,000 people live in this mountainous city located in the Peruvian Andes. At an altitude of 16,732 feet high (5,100m), it lays claim to the title of “highest city in the world.”
La Rinconada’s economy is fueled almost entirely by the nearby gold mine. Cheap labor and working conditions in Peru drive thousands of miners to remote locations hoping to secure work and stake their claim. Employment at the nearby Corporación Ananea gold mine is a unique system called cachorreo: employees work for 30 days without payment, and on the 31st day they are allowed to take as much ore from the mine as they can carry. Whatever the miners are able to extract from the ore is theirs. The gold content of each piece of ore taken by the miners is a roll of the dice, however. Such odds have been good enough to keep miners happy and flocking to the region, as the population of La Rinconada has skyrocketed 235% in the last decade.
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
Despite housing over 30,000 people, the town’s infrastructure is well below normal Peruvian standards. Originally founded as a remote gold mining operation, the town’s planners did not account for such growth. The city has no plumbing, no sanitation, and no heating services. There is heavy mercury contamination in the ground from the mining activities. The city was built on a permanently-frozen glacier and is accessible only by truck. The several-day trip is made via treacherous winding mountain roads.
So how high is La Rinconada, exactly? The town is higher than all but 3 peaks in the United States; in fact it’s higher than anything in the contiguous United States. La Rinconada is higher than any point in England, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland. The tip of the highest peak in the Alps range – Mont Blanc – is 1,000 feet lowerthan La Rinconada, Peru. In fact the only place in Europe higher than La Rinconada is approaching Eurasia territory: Shkhara in Georgia (only 100m higher), and Mount Ararat in Turkey (37m higher).
Female miners working high above La Rinconada
Trash burned in the street:
Satellite & Map: click here