The following images were taken in 1875 in the mining town of El Callao, Venezuela, then known as Caratal.
We are not surprised by the fact that these photographs surfaced in France since one of the biggest mining companies in the area, Compañía Minera Nacional Anónima El Callao, was created by the Corsican traders Antonio Liccioni and Jean Cagninacci in 1870.
El Callao is a town in the Venezuelan Guiana Highlands. It has been a gold-mining centre since it was founded in 1853; however, it is said that mining in Caratal started as early as 1824 by the indigenous population in this area. The gold rush of 1853 attracted gold-hunting adventurers from England, America, France and the Caribbean islands when it was discovered that these mines contained 1.5 kilograms of gold per ton, when the best gold mines in other parts of the world had only 120 grams of gold per ton.
By 1885 El Callao had become the world’s leading producer of gold – having produced 8.193,510 Kgr of gold that year.
The first gold rush was over by 1899, and the mines were for long thought to be exhausted, but a combination of new technology and high gold prices in the 1970s led to the redevelopment of the mines by CVG (Corporación Venezolana de Guayana) Minerven, a Venezuelan national mining corporation. Since 2009, the gold-mining industry in Venezuela has been steadily deteriorating as production levels continue to fall.
Over the years several explorers and writers have proposed that the area that comprises the mines in El Callao and others mines around it might have been the real mythical city of gold, “El Dorado.”
The photographer is still unknown.