Into the silver mines

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
Trip End Jul 24, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Monday, June 14, 2010

Today I spent some time wandering around Potosi with Kirsty.  The main square and the area around had lots of well-preserved colonial buildings to check out.  After lunch we met the rest of the group back at the hotel for our excursion into the silver mines (they used to mine silver - now it is mostly zinc and tin).  They gave us pants and jackets to wear over our clothes, and rubber boots instead of our shoes.  Then we were taken to a small shop where our guide helped us buy bags things to bring to the mines.  Our bags included packages of cookies and crackers for the miners' children, coca leaves for the miners, and dynamite, ammonium nitrate and explosive charges (magnesium something, I think), some of which we were to blow up and some of which we were to give to the miners for their work.  I was quite nervous getting back on the bus with enough explosives (collectively) to blow up a city block....

When we got to the mines, our guide took us into a mine shaft and explained the mining conditions and the history as we walked through.  It was quite depressing to hear that the children start working in the mines as young as 12 year old and usually only live to be 45-50.  Apparently, apart from the air compressors, the conditions in the mine and the methods used have changed very little since the mining began centuries ago.  We met a miner working inside and gave him some of the supplies we brought.  He let us take a sample of the rock he was working on.

The way out was a bit challenging, including climbing around a large open hole, crawling through a very narrow passage, and climbing an old wooden ladder.  Once we got out, we had the opportunity to blow up a couple of sticks of dynamite, which made a lot of noise.

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