Potosi Mine Tour
I have just been to Potosi the city of Silver, and wanted to share my experience there.
If you don't mind, Don't you?
|Well, Potosi is really special since it is the highest city in the world, 4,090 meters high !
Apart from being the highest city, Its main attraction, and the reason you wanna be there is Cerro Rico (The Rich Mountain) 4,824 meters mountain, populare of being made of silver ore.
The special thing about this mountain is that there you can do the mine tour, which is a really great and scary experience, it was boasted that the amount of silver contained in the mine was enough to build a bridge of silver from Potosi to Spain, with enough remaining to be transported to Spain over the bridge itself !
So here is my experiences from the Mine Tour......
We started the tour by visiting the miners market where you can buy some gifts for the miners.
It is tradition to bring the miners gifts because you are entering their working area and the miners need those gifts because of their low wages.
I personaly bought them some coca leaves, hand-rolled cigarettes, soda, dynamite, and since it was Friday, alcohol potable.
Than you get dressed up with safety clothes and take a lamp and a helmet with you.
Before you go in the mine you can also buy dynamite in the miner's market. Then the guide does a controlled explosion outside the mine. I thought it was going to be quite a feeble bang and was ho humming to myself thinking about bike gears etc when there was a huge big bang. Brilliant. Inside the miners work together in many small mining cooperative in terrible conditions mining by hand and pushing huge trolleys.
The miners work with a big wad of coca leaves between their cheek and teeth. The coca helps energize them and suppresses their hunger. You must be strong to work in these poorly ventilated, death trap mine tunnels that are at an approximate elevation of 4,300 meters. Miners attribute their strength to the coca leaf - they will not work without it. They spend approximately 15% of their income on the purchase of coca leaves. When mining is not going well, they may only earn enough money to pay for their coca leaves.
The Action Begins.....
We entered the initial mine shaft, and it was barely moments before we were scrambling along the walls of the narrow tunnel to avoid being hit by a railroad cart full of ore rock that was hurtling along the railroad track towards us through the darkness.
Inside the mine, the air was unbearably hot, the tunnels were cramped, and the air was filled with dust generated from the blasting of rocks. To get around, we often had to get down on our hands and knees and crawl. We visited three different levels within the mine. To get between levels, we had to manually climb up or descend down nearly vertical tunnels that connected them. No lifts have been installed in the mines of Potosi.
One of our first stops within the mine was at the shrine of Tio (Uncle). Tio represents the god of the underworld, as opposed to the god of the aboveground world. In each level, in a relatively quiet and tucked away place, there is a place of worship for Tio. In order to have good luck in the mines, the miners bestow many gifts and offerings to Tio.
To honor Tio, our group drank alcohol potable diluted with tea and chewed coca leaves. Before we drank each shot of the alcohol, we had to pour a little on the ground, for Tio and Pachamama (Mother Earth). By the end of our session in front of Tio, we had drunk five rounds of shots in his honor.
After our time with Tio, we continued on through the mines sharing our gifts, including more alcohol potable, with those miners we encountered.
Thanks God, By the end of the day Our group could survive this scary experience !
But I have to say, that I have learnt a lot from this experience, especially how it all looked very dangerous and unhealthy, difficult and hard to believe that people actually work in these conditions today
The miners must accept their fate to die young, The reason they accept it is because they have the potential to earn much more money mining than at other available jobs in Bolivia. That is why the supply of people willing to work in the mines will continue to grow up.
These days zinc is the most profitable metal extracted from the mines.