Monday, 4 April 2011

THE DEVIL'S SPINE: MINING THE CERRO RICO

In 1985 when the economic slump caused many Bolivian mining companies to collapse, the impoverished miners were forced to open up as cooperatives and become their own bosses. This has done little to ease the poverty among the societies that survive from digging deep into the earth for misers' metals - mostly lead, tin and zinc. Potosi, one of the poorest mining towns, is cut into the base of the Cerro Rico, translated as 'Rich Mountain', another of the cruel ironies so common in Bolivia. During Spanish rule it was stripped of its precious metals and now the barren slopes are home to the poor, the desperate and those unable to escape the treacherous conditions. Many miners are young, uneducated and destined for an early grave. Few men in Potosi live beyond 50, with nearly half dying from silicosis.