By Andrey Gordasevich & Nils Krauer
"Quickgold" is a story about the origin of gold as a symbol of wealth and its connection to human labor, condition and identity. It is based on daily life of people involved in gold mining and processing in Peruvian jungle in Madre de Dios province, but it also has a broader meaning. The word "quickgold" is a derivative from "quicksilver", or mercury, used in gold processing.

"Quickgold" project united a Russian photographer Andrey Gordasevich and a Swiss sociologist Nils Krauer.
The photos do not reflect the objective reality, the texts do not describe the environment. ...The photographer is only an envelope for the eye watching.
Julio del Valle, Professor at the PUCP, Peru
Gold mining panorama, Rio Pukiri region
Gold which we all know in shape of high-tech and costly objects comes from ordinarily looking soil and gets its shine virtually shaking off the mud — all with the help of bare hands. Artisanal and small scale miners produce up to 20% of the worldwide gold volume, but this type of mining creates 90% of jobs in the industry for more than 100 million people. Small-scale miners are often poverty driven and characterized by high level of marginalization. Working in an informal or illegal mine gives them an opportunity to earn more money. However, uncontrolled exploitation of mineral resources often leads to social and environmental hazards.
Behind the scene of gold production we trace the lives of miners, their stories and beliefs, trying to stay away from condemnation or justification and suggesting that behind the gold production process there is a human life, worthwhile to observe and understand.
Uncle Coca (72) is working as artisanal miner since the age of 16, his hands are suffering from arthritis
The imprint the gold mining leaves on nature and people is caused by human hands, whose prints can also define a person's identity. The other identity question concerns the Inca heritage of Peru with its cult role of the gold. In "Quickgold" the Inca roots are not conventionally traced through remains of the Inca culture, but rather examining the continuity of nature and human faces.
End of working day in Rio Pukiri: miners shaking out the rugs and gathering gold containing sand
End of working day in Rio Pukiri: miners shaking out the rugs and gathering gold containing sand
Consciously or not, contemporary miners are continuing to exploit the same ground as centuries ago. Though in some regions of Peru the Inca heritage got marginalized due to expansion of Catholic Church after the Spanish conquistadors, the gold mine camps in Madre de Dios are still strongly influenced by the pre-colonial cultures. The majority of workers here are migrants from the mountain regions of Cuzco and Puno, the former centers of Inca culture, so their beliefs mix Inca tradition with Catholicism and coexist in a way of syncretism.
100 days of indulgence amulet, Peru, 1877
In all the emperor's houses there were gardens where the Inca would rest. All manner of beautiful trees and plants grew there, and there were life-size models of them with fruits and flowers made of gold and silver. There were entire life-size cornfields of gold and silver, complete with leaves, ears and stalks, with roots and flowers. There were also gold and silver animals, big and small: rabbits, mice, lizards, snakes, butterflies, foxes and wild cats, as they had no domestic cats. There were all kinds of birds, some of them sitting in the branches as if they were singing, others drinking nectar from flowers. There were deer, lions and tigers, and all other animals, each of them positioned to look as natural as possible. Among this splendor were life-size piles of fire-wood made of gold and silver.

Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
(1539 - 1616)
Comentarios Reales de los Incas

Peruvians call their country pais minero, “the mining country". Gold mining and processing are the foundation of life in Madre de Dios province. In its rivers gold is found in small particles which freed from the rocks up in the Andes as a part of natural decay. Differently from gold veins in the mountains, where you have to extract gold from rocks, the river soil is washed with water and separated into stones and gold containing sand known as arenilla.
Miners taking rugs off the drag, Madre de Dios region
To extract the gold, quicksilver (mercury) is mixed into the arenilla, binding the gold particles together. Then this gold-mercury amalgam is heated in a retort and the quicksilver evaporates, leaving pure gold. Up to 20 tons of gold are produced in Madre de Dios annually by 60,000 miners scattered around more than 85,000 square kilometers. Fifteen percent of gold mining in Peru is illegal, generating twice as much profit as drug-dealing. Currently, no miners can legalize their activities in Madre de Dios because of contradictory laws.
The story goes through 3 gold mining regions called after their gold-bearing rivers and the small town of Puerto Maldonado, the capital of Madre de Dios region.
Made on