Story transcripts

60 Minutes Classic: Treasure of Serra Pelada

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
In this classic segment from our<i>60 Minutes</i> archives, George Negus explores the wild Amazonian gold mining town of Serra Pelada in Brazil — a place that, by the mid-80s, was a law unto itself.<p>
Reporter: George Negus

Producer: Ben Hill

Original broadcast date:

November 10, 1985

It's a vision straight out of the great 19th century gold rushes of Australia and the American west, only this is the Amazon jungle, in 1985.

In this first installment of our 60 Minutes Classics series, George Negus explores the wild Amazonian gold mining town of Serra Pelada in Brazil — a place that, by the mid-80s, was a law unto itself.

And it all started with a 6g nugget of gold, found by an unassuming local bathing his child on the banks of a remote river.

Within five years, tens of thousands of men swarmed the site in a huge goldstrike worth more than the annual output of all Australian gold mines combined.

This truly is frontier life — an all-male world; a world where self-appointed prospectors have been forced to invent their own rule of law — and with limited success.

It's a sad fact that in the town of "stores and whores" that neighbours Serra Pelada, there are tens of thousands of girls under the age of 16 selling their bodies for a few grains of gold. It is also said there are 60-80 unsolved murders in the town every month.

Unsolved, because the authorities don't even attempt to find the killers amongst all the confusion of this wild place.

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