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Potosi and the mines on the Cerro Rico


Potosi is the mining city in the world you must know. All the wealth of the Spanish empire had been extracted from the silver mines in Potosi (plus the Incas's gold). This city has been built because of the mines and is composed by 60% of miners.

2


Equipment


Tours borrow to the tourists a suit, pants, boats and helmets with torch. Tourists can feel himself a miner for one day.

3


The market


First we buy provisions for the mines. Water, sodas, coca leafs, 96° alcohol and dynamite... here are the presents for the miners we will meet on the way.

4


The transformation factory


The ore brought from the mine should be extracted with the best possible quality in order to avoid going up unuseful pebbles. Then it is necessary to work the ore again. Silver will be sorted, melt and split from any other materials - brass, cooper and tin - and impurities. The main method to split is decantation

5


2hours inside the mine


We finally entered inside one of the many holes that composes the Cerro Rico (the Rich Mount). The width varies from 3m to 1m... Miners cannot be plump.

6


Meeting a miner


This video contains the whole interview. Interview of a miner in Potosi: http://youtu.be/d1fvSNLMuRU

7


Strange gods


At the bottom of the mine, we discovered strange statues covered of victuals. It is the viril god of miners: el Tio (the devil).
Miners offer it a part of their provisions in exchange of its protection.

8


The dynamite


Take a mad guy, give him a stick of dynamite, a bit of explosive powder, one fuse and send him into an obscure tunnel. 6 minutes later, he will come back, and you'll hear a big boom!

9


The miners


Aged from 14 to 45 years old, they live in awful conditions. Their expectation of life is 45 y.o. and they spend more than 50 hours per week underground for a salary between 75 and 140€, depending on their yield. After more than 5 years spent inside the mine, they can ask to belong to a cooperative. The cost of the entrance into a cooperative is so high that some miners cannot afford it. (Only 25%)
Miners work in small (5ppl) or big groups (20p). Small groups usually make between one-two explosions per hour whereas the big ones can make around 15. Waiting for each explosion, miners have to leave the zone for one hour or two in order to avoid breathing toxic gases.
Talking about gas, inside the mine, we can't make the "big stuff": methan could be dangerous. We breath bad gas all the time we spend in the mine: suffer is everywhere. That's why miners don't eat there. They chew coca leafs during hours. It gives them energy. Moreover these leafs serve as filter for cigarettes.
It's a dog's life and their life standards get drastically worst since the end of the intervention of the state for the improvement of miner's life. Ressources inside the mine are getting more and more rare, then theses mines become less interesting.
In less than 10 years, miners will use up the whole remaining ressources of actual mines in Potosi. Some other mines, which extraction is impossible nowadays, are considered for the future in condition that a huge investment in new extracting techniques is afforded. Here we are... returning the ground until the shortage... At least, tourists bring some helps to these persons with their presents...

1


Potosi and the mines on the Cerro Rico


Potosi is the mining city in the world you must know. All the wealth of the Spanish empire had been extracted from the silver mines in Potosi (plus the Incas's gold). This city has been built because of the mines and is composed by 60% of miners.


Equipment


Tours borrow to the tourists a suit, pants, boats and helmets with torch. Tourists can feel himself a miner for one day.


The market


First we buy provisions for the mines. Water, sodas, coca leafs, 96° alcohol and dynamite... here are the presents for the miners we will meet on the way.


The transformation factory


The ore brought from the mine should be extracted with the best possible quality in order to avoid going up unuseful pebbles. Then it is necessary to work the ore again. Silver will be sorted, melt and split from any other materials - brass, cooper and tin - and impurities. The main method to split is decantation


2hours inside the mine


We finally entered inside one of the many holes that composes the Cerro Rico (the Rich Mount). The width varies from 3m to 1m... Miners cannot be plump.


Meeting a miner


This video contains the whole interview. Interview of a miner in Potosi: http://youtu.be/d1fvSNLMuRU


Strange gods


At the bottom of the mine, we discovered strange statues covered of victuals. It is the viril god of miners: el Tio (the devil).
Miners offer it a part of their provisions in exchange of its protection.


The dynamite


Take a mad guy, give him a stick of dynamite, a bit of explosive powder, one fuse and send him into an obscure tunnel. 6 minutes later, he will come back, and you'll hear a big boom!


The miners


Aged from 14 to 45 years old, they live in awful conditions. Their expectation of life is 45 y.o. and they spend more than 50 hours per week underground for a salary between 75 and 140€, depending on their yield. After more than 5 years spent inside the mine, they can ask to belong to a cooperative. The cost of the entrance into a cooperative is so high that some miners cannot afford it. (Only 25%)
Miners work in small (5ppl) or big groups (20p). Small groups usually make between one-two explosions per hour whereas the big ones can make around 15. Waiting for each explosion, miners have to leave the zone for one hour or two in order to avoid breathing toxic gases.
Talking about gas, inside the mine, we can't make the "big stuff": methan could be dangerous. We breath bad gas all the time we spend in the mine: suffer is everywhere. That's why miners don't eat there. They chew coca leafs during hours. It gives them energy. Moreover these leafs serve as filter for cigarettes.
It's a dog's life and their life standards get drastically worst since the end of the intervention of the state for the improvement of miner's life. Ressources inside the mine are getting more and more rare, then theses mines become less interesting.
In less than 10 years, miners will use up the whole remaining ressources of actual mines in Potosi. Some other mines, which extraction is impossible nowadays, are considered for the future in condition that a huge investment in new extracting techniques is afforded. Here we are... returning the ground until the shortage... At least, tourists bring some helps to these persons with their presents...

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