Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Gold is one of the most precious metals in the world, and has run the gamut from its use as currency, to jewelry, and even to electronic plating, and infrared shielding. But for many people the cost far outweighs its intrinsic value. Seeker Stories went to South America to learn about some of the worst exploitation, both human and environmental. Check it out. Gold is maybe the most universal shorthand there is for value, and for greed. The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with it. European explorers marauded through South America in search of it. And American cities like San Francisco and Seattle rose to prominence because of it. It’s a big part of our history as humans. Looking at all that, our obsession with gold also seems historical, sort of old timey - but that’s not at all true. There’s still huge demand for it today - the recession of 2008 helped gold quadruple in value. And a full half of all the gold mined in the world has been mined in the past 50 years. But what is different about gold today is how we get it. What happens in gold producing areas is not what we imagine where somebodies in a cave, using a chisel and a hammer to get these big golden nuggets. That’s Diego, a photojournalist who spent some time in Cajamarca, Peru near a modern gold mine. Actually, not just any gold mine...the largest in all of Latin America. And modern mining looks very different than it used to. most of the gold that we are mining now comes in the forms of little specks of sand, little flakes mixed in with dirt. a lot of these companies are using open pit mines to grab as much dirt as possible and then they process it with different chemicals Those chemicals are cyanide, arsenic, and mercury...basically a laundry list of things you want to keep far away from people. But the mining process creates a lot of waste water laced with those pollutants. And up in the Andes mountains, the water doesn’t stay put. when you take a mining operation and you put it on top of a mountain, the water as we all know, only follows gravity, it goes down in every direction, And therein lies the problem. According to Diego, poisoned water has seeped throughout the region, causing stomach cancer in people, illnesses in livestock, and decimated fish populations. And the people of Cajamarca, who were promised new wealth from the mining economy, haven’t all seen a benefit. they see water that is contaminated and economic opportunities that haven't really changed for them. [0:30] quality of life has remained the same for many of these people without any of the profits you would assume a gold mine would bring to a region And so the people have done the one thing they’re able to do about the mines: protest. They’re pushing back against foreign corporate influence, ruined natural resources...and a history that somehow never has seemed to change for them. they've been exploited for about 500 years now, ever since the spanish arrived and started taking the Incan’s gold. the same story happens wherever you have resource extraction projects. it's a dirty industry which makes private profits and public disasters. For Diego, it all comes back to the value of gold. As expensive as gold is right now, after visiting Cahamarca Diego sees it as undervalued. Dangerously so. i realized that gold is cheap because we pay to it through the lives of people who live in gold producing areas, through the lives of people who live in Cajamarca. This is video’s part of a short series we’re doing on protest movements around the world. To get a peek behind the front lines of a movement called black bloc, click now. If you want to see more in depth content like this, check out Seeker Stories. They’ll take you around the world sharing the stories that surprise, challenge and inspire you - like this one about a company that is revolutionizing sustainable energy with an unexpected resource. Please make sure to like and subscribe to Seeker Stories for more webdocs. Thanks for watching!