Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Into the dark in Potosi

After our 4x4 trip, 11 members of the group decided to travel together to the mining town of Potosi.  It took us almost 2 hours to decide which tour company to go with.  In the end, 1 person decided not to go, 1 decided to go with a more established company and 9 of us went with a new miner owned, miner run company (The Real Deal).

First we suited and booted up.

Then we went to the miners' market to buy gifts for the miners.  This included coca leaves, dynamite and fuses and soft drinks.  We were also introduced to one of the miners' favourite drink, Ceibo (96% alcohol!)

At a refinery, we learned that 90% of the rock that is mined now is waste and the remaining 10% is silver, lead and zinc.  At the 500 year old mine, we met miners as young as 15 who work 10 hours a day.  Some of the mines are so deep that the miners don't see daylight for their entire shift.  So why work there? Miners can make up to 3 times more than other workers; however, their life expectancy is 50 to 60 years old.

Dark, cold, dusty, hot, suffocating, maze of tunnels...we were probably in the mine for less than an hour, but it was more than enough.  It was an experience we were glad we had as we can now empathise with the miners, but it's something we are happy never to do again.

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