Nieves Villavicencio

A transformation story


Nieves Villavicencio has dedicated the last 17 years of her life to “pallaqueo” or mineral selection. 

In a mountain of wasted material, she selects and puts into a sack the rocks that still have gold, discarded after the mineral-extraction process by MACDESA mining organization (Arequipa, Peru).

She is part of the Association of Pallaquera Women Cuatro Horas, located in the same sector as MACDESA. Today, those women are achieving a dream of transforming themselves into entrepreneurs with their own sewing workshop, thanks to the support of MACDESA mining organization, certified with the Fairmined standard since 2017.

 “This job represents my progress and leaving poverty behind”, says Nieves.



Improving their labour conditions

When she started as a pallaquera, Nieves remembers that it was an informal job: they had no uniform, no helmet, no mining shoes; in addition, they worked many hours, day and night. Today, their conditions have improved.

“MACDESA has always supported us and worked with us, and now that they have the Fairmined certification and receive a premium much more. We have been trained in safety and also trained by the doctor and nurses,” says Nieves.

The dream to be a business woman

The selector women know that mineral selection is not an easy job and that in a few years they will not be in the same physical condition to do so.

Therefore, MACDESA is supporting them to find other ways to develop. “The idea of the sewing workshop came from the women selectors’ dream to form a small company,” says Nieves.

They have learned this new trade with a sewing teacher, to make uniforms and personal protection items that they sell mainly to MACDESA workers and other companies. Today, they keep working for the growth of their entrepreneurship.

Nieves never imagined that she could develop as a dress maker. She feels happy to have this new opportunity, that for sure will transform her life and the ones of the new generations of pallaqueras.

She hopes that there are other organizations like this one that provides support to the pallaqueras women to formalize, develop their labour in safe conditions and improve their living conditions.

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