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Workers risk their lives 'mining' in contaminated water at the bottom of Guatemala City's trash dump

Every now and then I see a set of pictures that reminds me of just how comfortable my life is. Rodrigo Abd’s photographs from “the Mine” in Guatemala City shows what life is like for the poor souls who eke out an existence by scavenging for scrap metal in a city dump. Their work, if you can call it that, is dangerous and dirty. I wouldn’t have believed it happens if Rodrigo hadn’t made the pictures.

All photos by Rodrigo Abd / AP

People search for scrap metal in contaminated water at the bottom of one of the biggest trash dumps, known as "The Mine," in Guatemala City, Oct. 19. Hundreds of informal workers descend daily into the mounds of the landfill and the rushing waters that come from a storm tunnel and a sewer at the bottom of a gorge to search for scrap metal to sell.

AP reports

Every day, about 300 people hike to the bottom of the ravine and wade into the water in search of rings and bracelets made of silver or gold. The water sifts and carries away the lighter garbage, leaving heavy metals on the stream bed.

"I make more money coming here than going to a company where they would continually scold me," says 41-year-old Eddie Miranda.

He got lucky on a recent day. "I found a bracelet with 9 grams of gold. I got 2,000 quetzals ($256) for it." Read more...


(Left) David Flores digs for scrap metal in contaminated water at the bottom of "The Mine" on Oct. 14.
(Right) Men sort scrap metal they found at the bottom of "The Mine" on Oct. 17.

(Left) A man holds up a gold ring, Oct. 6, he found as he was searching for scrap metal in "The Mine".
(Right) A man, known as Ronnie, carries a sack of metal he collected on Oct. 14. Ronnie also works as a security guard to protect workers from thieves who steal the metal they collect.

A girl named "Baluquita," 15, searches for scrap metal on Oct. 4.

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