Visiting the Devil's Miners (by KCT)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Flag of Bolivia  ,
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Potosí is claimed to be the highest city in the world at a nominal 4.090 m. It lies beneath the Cerro de Potosí which is referred to the Cerro Rico, meaning "rich mountain" as it is rich in minerals. Mine workings had been already done there by the Indians when the Hispanics discovered the city in 1545. At that time, immense amounts of silver were extracted so that Potosí used to be the largest city in the Americas. Nowadays, it has a rather a touch of a ghost town where mining continues, mainly of tin, zinc, lead, antimony and wolfram, and mine tours offered to attract tourists.

We were two of the tourists who joined a 4,5-hour tour to the mines which involved meeting the miners and seeing them at work in medieval conditions. It was a fascinating, but also a shocking experience. We crawled though the narrow, dark and dusty tunnels of the mines, from one level to another, to watch mine workers digging holes, using dynamite to blast the rocks, then gathering the minerals together in wagons to push them out of the mines by man hands. And note that those wagons scale 1,5 ton each! It was just unbelievable what we got to see. The most shocking thing was that we met the youngest mine worker: He was only sweet 15 and had been already worked there for 2 years! – Considering the miners' burden, it is just remarkable that they were always welcoming the tourists. They carry out their work with such an honor that we should learn from their mentality!
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