Segments in this Video

The Discovery of Gold (03:37)


Genésio Ferreira da Silva found a rock full of gold and took it to Marabà to be analyzed. Índio points out old dig sites: BV, PPO, Falklands, North Church, South Church, and Black Land. The gold mines are now covered by a lake. (Credits)

How it Looks Today (02:35)

Da Silva called Serra Pelada "3 Barras Farm" before the gold was discovered. Trovão describes how Da Silva's wife discovered the gold while washing clothes in the river. Two and a half billion years ago, two portions of the earth's crust collided, leading to the formation of Serra Pelada.

Serra Pelada Means "Naked Mountain" (02:36)

The Brazilian Government commissioned DoceGeo to study the Carajás mine— Breno dos Santos describes finding iron reserves in Carajás in 1967. In the early 1970s, gold was discovered in Para state, which led to the gold rush of Serra Pelada. Zé Maria worked for 8 days in Serra Pelada and found almost 20 pounds of gold, which is equal to $264,000 dollars.

Finding Gold on the Mountain (02:36)

After serving as a lieutenant in the Brazilian army, Antônio Venâno began working for DoceGeo as a security person in 1979. Prospectors started looking for gold in "Rich Creek"— Teodorico found it first on private land atop the mountain. Within a day later, the vegetation was cut down and Serra Pelada was divided into two-meter lots.

Unstoppable Prospectors (02:16)

Gold miners started finding gold nuggets as large as five pounds atop the soil. When they found a deep vein of gold in "Little Pussy," the gold rush began. Zé Miguel took a vacation to Serra Pelada and within ten days completed the "Bamburra" (finding more than a kilo of gold).

Controlling the Garimpo (03:36)

Eliezer Batista explains how Serra Pelada was a great example of disrespect for law and order in Brazil because he owned all the mining rights for the mountain. Major Sebastião Curió, a spy for the National Intelligence Service, shut down the airport, arrested smugglers, and proposed that the government organize the gold rush.

Brazilian Army Strikes (03:05)

Alcione Ferreira describes how policemen jumped out of helicopters onto the mountain, arresting or killing all they found there. Curió gave a speech where he promised medical assistance for the miners, a warehouse, and no royalties would need to be given to da Silva in exchange for some rules being put in place.

1981 (03:22)

Newscasts boasted that the garimpeiros found 66 pounds of gold a day and there was virtually no crime or theft, but the area was devoid of alcohol, women, and cars. Ricardo Kotscho wanted to go to the mountain to meet the miners because the National Intelligence Service controlled the media. A Canadian company purchased the mountain and prospectors were no longer allowed to mine gold.

1981: Raffling Plots of Land (03:02)

Raimunda Conceição pretended to be a man in order to mine gold. Curió gave all the worker's equal rights, but would only allow one owner per plot.

1981: Prospector Holiday (03:18)

A newscast proclaims how the men stopped work early one day to see the president of Brazil and hear a speech by Lieutenant Colonel Sebastião de Moura. Because the president mentioned that the government would encourage more garimpeiros, thousands more showed up. In 1981, prospectors reached the water table, and Vale decided to lower the sides of the mine so the garimpo could continue.

1982 (03:01)

The garimpo was reopened in June or May. Watch footage from "The World Around Us," "Amazon Gold," "Gold Lust," and reports from the BBC and other news agencies.

1982: "Gold Buys Lots of Things" (02:23)

The government promised 250 "driller's" licenses. Once Trovão received his license he was able to negotiate lots, engines, tents, and food.

1981: Brotherhood or Concentration Camp? (04:18)

Índio do MST recalls how Curió established social equality at Serra Pelada. Etevaldo Arantes explains how men were subjected to demeaning punishments if they violated the rules of the area and watched porn because women were not allowed in the area. Pedro Paulo worked in the camps because he was not built for drilling.

1981: Gold Rush (02:10)

"Black Donkey" rock contained the highest concentration of gold— the "bluffed" worked in areas where there was a very small chance of locating gold. Índio did not strike gold for a year and a half then found 50 pounds worth in a single night. Maria explains how 90% of the workers at the gold mine never found gold.

1981: Money (02:31)

The government of Brazil priced gold just above market value to prevent smuggling. Índio brought home a milk crate full of cash to share with his village and champagne to give to the women. One miner placed cash all over a women's body to display his wealth.

1981: Visiting Curiopolis (02:54)

Conflicts occurred amongst squatters, Indians, prospectors, and lawn owners. The Araguaia guerrilla army controlled the land around the mountain. Curió decided to erect a town— the citizens named it after him.

1981: Personal Lives (02:54)

Conceição and Maria married after he lost all of his money. Trovão, whose name means thunder, married a woman named Lightning. Curio ran for congress in 1983 and promised not to shut down the garimpo.

1984 (02:29)

Curió explains that private companies want to shut down the garimpo because prospectors found a large vein of gold and the company wants it. A shareholder of Vale filed a lawsuit against the government and won the settlement.

1984: Curió Fights Back (03:26)

Congress passed legislation creating the Serra Pelada Prospecting Reserve and the Cooperative, but the President vetoed the bill. Curió started a revolt of the garimpeiros until the President reversed the decision.

1985 (05:13)

Prospectors called the makeshift ladders at Serra Pelada "goodbye, Mommy." When Curió left the administration of the garimpo in 1985, the organization started letting women into the camps. Sebastião Salgado finally visited in 1986 when the garimpeiros took over the mines— Negrd Alumínio remembers meeting Salgado and the individuals in his photographs.

1985: Serra Pelada Today (04:58)

Ricardo Kotscho tours Serra Pelada and visits with Índio who still prospects gold. Conceição and Maria own a plot of land and plan on tearing down the houses to mine for gold. Salgado spent a month photographing events and shows the production team a series of photographs about a fight that occurred at the mines where Marcinho held a policeman's rifle.

1986 (03:23)

A landslide occurred at the mine, killing 25 people and injuring 80— the poor rioted, stoning a policeman to death. The government demanded the cooperative pay 870 million dollars it owed. The garimpeiros protested, and while the police claim that only three people died, Arantes explains that the miners registered 74 missing people.

1987 (00:41)

The garimpeiros kept working until they could go no further and stopped for good in 1989 or 1990. The Brazilian government suspended all mining operations at Serra Pelada.

1990 (03:40)

When the government privatized the Garimpo, Vale flew in 1300 soldiers and erected a fence to keep the miners out— 200 Garimpeiros broke down the fence. Curió does not understand how the government can give the land back to Vale, when the company already sold the property and indemnified it. Curió is accused of corruption after returning to his role as President of the Cooperative.

1995 (02:29)

Former gampeiros join the Landless Movement. At Eldorado dos Carajás military police killed at least 19 members— former members describe the attack. 16 of the group used to be gampeiros at Serra Pelada.

2002 (03:13)

Senator Lobao approved an amendment cancelling the return of Serra Pelada to Vale di Rui Doce. Curió resists allowing men to return to the mountain and requires miners to pay a fee to enter. Cooperative members grow frustrated and want to sell it.

2006 (00:45)

The Colossus/Coomigasp partnership began in the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The members of the cooperative agreed because they either received 49% of the profits or nothing.

2008 (01:38)

A conflict between rival miners broke out on the street and the president of Coomigasp was injured during the battle. The cooperative was raided and the garimpeiros discovered their percentage of profits was only 25%. Dos Santos describes how removing the gold from the mountain is impossible.

2009 (03:06)

Colossus studies the geology of Santa Pelada. Curió was impeached as mayor because of vote tampering and returned to Brasilia to face charges of torture. Citizens of Curiopolis are thinking of changing the town's name.

2010 (04:12)

Edison Lobão announces a lawsuit to benefit the garimpeiros in Curiopolis. Curió feels remorse he is not a part of the mine. Some garimpeiros lose faith that they will find gold while others speak of diamond deposits in the lakebed.

2011 (01:39)

Colossus announces excellent sources of platinum and palladium in its first dig hole. Lobão tours the facility and explains that he will be back to celebrate with the garimpeiros.

2012 (02:12)

Arantes blames Bale and Colossus for what became of Serra Pelada. Policeman attack a crowd of garimpeiros with tear gas and firecrackers. One miner explains how he came for 60 days and stayed 25 years, declaring gold mining is like gambling.

Love of Prospecting (03:34)

A mining detector discovers gold between Conceição and Maria's banana and orange trees. Maria recalls how he was discriminated against when trying to buy a plane ticket, so he rented an entire plane. He does not regret wasting the huge amounts of money and explains that if he had money now, he would sell off everything and invest it into Serra Pelada.

Credits: Serra Pelada: Gold Rush (02:22)

Credits: Serra Pelada: Gold Rush

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Serra Pelada: Gold Rush

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Serra Pelada's discovery in 1979 precipitated one of the world's largest contemporary gold rushes. In a matter of days miners could make hundreds of thousands of dollars as chunks of gold kilos in weight were found.

Length: 101 minutes

Item#: BVL118366

ISBN: 978-1-63521-996-8

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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