Faces and voices of Colombia’s artisanal miners

August 4, 2015
Estiven Andrés, the son of a Colombian miner

They are men and women. They are old and young.

One crushed stones to feed her family. One grew up watching miners sift for bits of gold almost too small to see, and now she advocates on behalf of such workers amid the arrival of mechanical grinders. 

They are Colombia’s artisanal miners, or chatarreros, and Pact is telling their stories in a new series of videos as part of its Somos Tesoro project, which is reducing child labor and improving families’ lives in Colombia’s mining communities. 

The series, entitled “Faces and Voices of Colombia’s Artisanal Mining,” captures the realities of four people – Ruth, Margarita, Estiven Andrés and Edison.

By 20, Ruth was speaking firmly for chatarreros at local mining council meetings. Margarita, who sustained her home by crushing stones for their gold, leads efforts to gain a dignified space for women miners. Estiven Andrés’ father mined so that his children could choose their own future. Edison, who as a child worked in coalmines while his friends played, studied and became an example of personal achievement.

For each of them, their roots, livelihood and hope are found in gold and coal.

“If we get closer to hear their stories, we can understand their reality and their perspective,” says Patricia Escudero, Pact’s Colombia country director. “That is the only way we can begin to understand why child labor occurs in their communities.”

Along with the videos, which are available with English subtitles, Pact’s Colombia office has launched the Spanish-language website The site offers a window into the world of Colombia’s artisanal gold and coal miners, with up-to-date information about miners’ lives, initiatives to make improvements, and the influence of public policies on mining development and the reduction of child labor.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor, Pact is delivering Somos Tesoro in partnership with three Colombian organizations – the Alliance for Responsible Mining, Fondo Acción and Fundación Mi Sangre.

Watch the videos and visit to learn more.