La Rinconada, Peru

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La Rinconada
View of the town
View of the town
Flag of La Rinconada
Official seal of La Rinconada
La Rinconada is located in Peru
La Rinconada
La Rinconada
Coordinates: 14°37′57″S 69°26′45″W / 14.63250°S 69.44583°W / -14.63250; -69.44583Coordinates: 14°37′57″S 69°26′45″W / 14.63250°S 69.44583°W / -14.63250; -69.44583
Country Peru
ProvinceSan Antonio de Putina
5,100 m (16,700 ft)
 • Total16,907

La Rinconada is a town in the Peruvian Andes near a gold mine.[1] At up to 5,100 m (16,700 ft; 3.2 mi) above sea level, it is the highest permanent settlement in the world.[2] Between 2001 and 2009, the population was estimated by National Geographic to have increased to 30,000 people from just a small gold prospector camp because the price of gold rose 235% over that period,[3] although this number has not been reflected by the 2007 or 2017 censuses.


La Rinconada is a populated center, within the jurisdiction of Ananea District, in San Antonio de Putina Province, Puno Department, Peru. La Rinconada is located in the Janca region, according to the classification of Pulgar Vidal, thus being the highest permanent town in the world. According to the May 2003 issue of National Geographic magazine, La Rinconada is 5,100 meters above sea level.[4]


"La Rinconada" means "The Corner" in Spanish.



The town is in the Ananea District, San Antonio de Putina Province. The town lies at a height of 4,900 m (16,100 ft; 3.0 mi) to 5,100 m (16,700 ft; 3.2 mi) with the center at 5,000 m (16,000 ft; 3.1 mi) above sea level,[5] on the side of Mount Ananea and at the foot of a glacier called Auchita, otherwise known as La Bella Durmiente (The Sleeping Beauty).[6] Some successful miners in La Rinconada have homes in Juliaca, which has municipal services and is "only" 3,825 m (12,549 ft; 2.377 mi) above sea level.[7]


High in the Andes, La Rinconada has an alpine tundra climate (ET, according to the Köppen climate classification), with no month having mean temperatures even close to the 10 °C (50 °F) threshold that would permit tree growth and a subtropical highland classification for the city. Far above the tree line, La Rinconada is unique in its high elevation and population, with the highest city of comparable population (Nagqu) being over 500 m (1,600 ft; 0.31 mi) closer to sea level.

Owing to the extreme elevation of the town, climatic conditions more closely resemble that of the west coast of Greenland than somewhere only 14° from the equator. The town has rainy summers and dry winters with a large diurnal variation seeing cool to cold days and freezing night time temperatures throughout the year, with snowfalls common. The average annual temperature in La Rinconada is 1.3 °C (34.3 °F) and the average annual precipitation is 707 mm (27.8 in).

Climate data for La Rinconada
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.6
Average low °C (°F) −3.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 135


According to a report by National Geographic, the 235% increase in the price of gold between 2001 and 2009 caused a strong growth in the local population, which reached 30,000 inhabitants in 2009.[3] However, these numbers could be overestimated, since the 2007 National Census indicated the population of the Ananea District (which, to a large extent, is found in the La Rinconada settlement) was 20,572 people (16,907 classified as urban), and the 2017 National Census recorded 12,615 people (11,307 classified as urban).[9][10] By comparison, the population of the Ananea District in 1981 was 2,707 people.[11]


The economy is mainly based on the production of gold from nearby gold mines, many artisanal.[7]

Many miners work at the gold mine owned by Corporación Ananea. Under the cachorreo system they work for 30 days without payment and for one day they are allowed to work for themselves. At this day of the month, the miners are allowed to take with them as much ore as they can carry on their shoulders.[12] Whether the ore contains any gold or not is a matter of luck. Pocketing of nuggets or promising chunks of rich ore is tolerated. This system sometimes ends with miners not being compensated for their work. While women are banned from working directly in the mines, pallaqueras, women who work on the outside of the mines, sift through what has been discarded hoping to find something of value.[7][13]

Inca Manco Cápac International Airport is the nearest commercial airport; it is located in Juliaca.

Environmental issues[edit]

The town lacks plumbing and sanitation systems.[3] Hypoxia is a significant health problem due to the low air pressure at such high altitude.[14] There is also significant contamination by mercury,[citation needed] due to the mining practices. Local miners refine the ore by grinding and treating it with mercury and pressing the mass through a cloth to filter it. The resulting amalgam is heated, to remove the mercury.


  1. ^ Altitude of Human Survivability, Maximum (Vertical Limit).
  2. ^ West, John B. (July 6, 2004). "Highest Permanent Human Habitation". High Altitude Medicine & Biology. 3 (4): 401–407. doi:10.1089/15270290260512882. PMID 12631426. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b c National Geographic Magazine, January 2009
  4. ^ John T Early 2016, Tales of the Modern Nomad: Monks, Mushrooms & Other Misadventures. EarluByrd Prod. Canada.
  5. ^ "Estudiarán en Rinconada - Puno, la adaptación del cuerpo humano en la ciudad más alta del mundo" (in Spanish). El Comercio. 2018-11-09. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  6. ^[bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ a b c William Finnegan (April 20, 2015). "Tears of the Sun The gold rush at the top of the world". No. The New Yorker. Retrieved April 13, 2015. Many mining towns are company towns. La Rinconada is the opposite. Nearly all the mines and miners here are "informal", a term that critics consider a euphemism for illegal. Ilasaca prefers "artisanal." The mines are small, numerous, unregulated, and, as a rule, grossly unsafe. Most do not pay salaries, let alone benefits, but run on an ancient labor system called cachorreo. This system is usually described as thirty days of unpaid work followed by a single frantic day in which workers get to keep whatever gold they can haul out for themselves.
  8. ^ "Climate: La Rinconada, Puno". Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  9. ^ Censos Nacionales 2007
  10. ^ Censos Nacionales 2017
  11. ^ Censos Nacionales 1981
  12. ^ "The Real Price of Gold". Magazine. 2009-01-01. Retrieved 2022-01-27.
  13. ^ Chepe, Óscar Espinosa (2017-09-09). "La Rinconada, el 'dorado' helado". EL PAÍS (in Spanish). Retrieved 2021-01-03.
  14. ^ Enserink, Martin (12 September 2019). "Hypoxia city". Science. 365 (6458): 1098–1103. doi:10.1126/science.365.6458.1098. PMID 31515381.

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