Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek

Mercury Madness

  1. Foothills
    1

    Foothills

    In Segovia, Colombia, nearly 100 shops process the gold that prospectors bring down from the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The cheapest, easiest way for miners to refine gold is to mix it with mercury, aka quicksilver.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  2. Polluted
    2

    Polluted

    Gold made Segovia a boomtown. Mercury made it one of the most poisonous places in the world.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  3. Miners
    3

    Miners

    Workers at the 120-year-old Niemi Niemi mine still dig for ore by hand.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  4. Shaft
    4

    Shaft

    The Niemi Niemi mine.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. Slush
    5

    Slush

    Slush from gold extraction.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  6. Supply
    6

    Supply

    At a supply store, mercury is measured for sale to miners.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  7. Processing
    7

    Processing

    Processing centers mix water, mercury, and gold ore in tumblers.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  8. Sale
    8

    Sale

    Luis Arango travels two hours to Segovia to sell gold from his mine in Remedios.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek
  9. Safer
    9

    Safer

    Juan Camilo Hoyos chose a job buying gold over the dangers of processing it.

  10. Downtown
    10

    Downtown

    Bars in central Segovia.

    Photograph by Ronald deHommel for Bloomberg Businessweek