We did the tour with Silver Tours which Bernie & myself would not recommend. I think it had something to do with the fact that we did not have an ex-miner doing the tour (meant to be the best as the miners know & respect them) & even though we asked this questions we are finding out very fast that some times people tell you anything to get a sale
. The woman who took the tour turned out to not be very nice to us & also (we thought) to the miners. The day started at 9am with been taken to a place in Potosi were they had loads of protective clothing for us to put on such as boots, pants, long sleeve tops, helmets & head torches. Then we all took off in a minibus to the miners markets where we all bought gifts for the miners. After all head torches were checked we headed into the mines where we saw alot of miners pushing big metal carts filled with rocks & dirt (from the digging & explosions) that they were emptying from the mines. Above our heads were planks of wood which were holding the earth in place, we hoped anyway. The deeper we went the harder it was the breathe & the hotter the tunnels got. At the deepest point I felt very faint & could not see Bernie who was only a couple of inches away from me. Bernie was brave enough to take a shovel from one of the workers & have a dig were with the altitude & the heat a couple of shovels & he was exhausted. Bernie dug for a lovely rock for me & when our guide Helen noticed that it had a small piece of silver in it she took it from him to show everyone & then when he asked from it back (even said he was happy to pay for it) she said that she did not have it, even though he could see it in her hand. By the end of the tour she finally returned it but left such a bad taste in our mouth. She was also slapping the miners on the backs saying Suerte (good luck) but there was something about it that was not right
. Did also experience a dynamite explosion was went all though your body.
Was upsetting to know that the locals have no choice but to work there (including some children) & to also find out that most of the silver has already been taken from Cerra Rica (means rich) alot are working for nothing but a slow and painful lung disease. Once the miners have had 50% of their lungs removed they are entitled to a pension of a very small amount to live on.
I think this is properly the most moving thing we will do in all our trip so the mood should rise after this story.
Love the Watties
We both had our reservations about going on a Silver mine tour as we had heard so many negative things about the mines & what they stand for, like children working in the mines from the ages of 12. After speaking to a guy in our hostel who did a mine tour he said that they were very informative & worth a visit. We had also read that the miners are also proud of the work they do & part of the trip is taking gifts like cigs, coca leaves, cold drink & Dynamite. After this information we thought it was worth it. In Potosi there are no factories so the only work for the locals to do is to work in the mines. There is a brilliant documentary that we also watched called The Devil Miners, very interesting but also upsetting. Gives you a good insite if anyone is interested.