DJG member Catherine Hendy spent six weeks travelling across South America. In her blog she writes about touring a silver mine in Cerro Rico, Bolivia. The mountain is known locally as the ‘ mountain that eats men’. Here we reproduce an excerpt which we’re sure will tempt you to read more!
Towards the beginning of April I spent 6 weeks travelling across South America visiting Peru, Bolivia and Chile. I saw some incredible historic sites, such as Macchu Picchu and the Moai heads on Easter Island. Whilst on my travels I found some new inspirations and have gotten the ball rolling with design new work since I have returned. But there is one part of the trip that struck a chord very firmly with me. In Bolivia, my friend and I took a detour from our planned route through the country to visit the city of Potosi. Founded in 1545, the vast amounts of silver mined at Cerro Rico (meaning rich mountain) made it one of the wealthiest cities in the world and it was known as the jewel in the crown of the Spanish empire. However, once the silver resources were depleted it led to an economic decline. These mines are still in used today.
We decided to take a tour with the Big Deal Tours company. This is the only tour company that is run solely by current and ex-miners, with all the profits going to the miners themselves. The first thing was to change into our protective clothing, including hard hats and rubber boots. Before going into the mine our group stopped of at the Miner’s Market to buy gifts for the miners such as coca leaves, soda and colouring books for their children. Also available to buy was dynamite, anyone (and I mean anyone!) can buy dynamite in Bolivia for as little as 13Bs (£1.20) per stick. We then continued on to the refinery plant where the minerals (silver, tin, lead and zinc) from the mine are extracted and purified. Please click here to read the rest of Catherine’s blog post on her blog.