In the past 20 years, more gold has been extracted from the earth than during the previous five centuries.
Modern open-pit mining techniques can pulverise mountains, crushing 80 tonnes of rock to extract just one ounce of gold. This creates so much toxic waste that, if allowed to contaminate river systems, it can leave whole communities sickened and impoverished.
But in Esquel, Argentina, locals have fought back.
Canadian mining giant, the Barrick Gold Company, has been forced out by local pressure, led by women who are concerned about what will be left of their mountains, their environment and their communities once the miners have gone.
Filmmaker Rodrigo Vasquez followed the "Esquel crusaders" as they confronted Barrick Gold.
This episode of People & Power aired on Wednesday, July 22, 2009.