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Fri Apr 24, 2020, 05:16 AM

Cerro Rico production stops after nearly 500 years

Revolution, war, plague and genocide couldn’t stop production from Cerro Rico in Potosi, Bolivia, but COVID-19 has seen it suspended after almost 500 years.

23 April 2020

More than 10,000 miners have downed tools as part of a national quarantine to limit the spread of the virus.

"We have no records or in the books of the Potosí Council, which span from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century ... of references that say that Cerro Rico stopped operating," said Daniel Oropeza of Bolivia's Historical Society.

Discovered in 1545, Cerro Rico is the GOAT (greatest of all time) of the silver world, a deposit which has produced billions of ounces of silver, funding Spain's colonial empire and a litany of wars with the British, Dutch, and French while Bolivia and its people remained poor.

Important enough to appear on Bolivia's flag, the population of Potosi grew to more than 160,000 in the eighteenth century, larger than London at the time, as slaves were brought in to work the mines at almost 4,800m above sea level.


Why Bolivia's Cerro Rico Is the 'Mountain That Eats Men'
Photo of Harry Stewart
Harry Stewart
10 July 2017

Towering over the colonial city of Potosi, Cerro Rico is Bolivia‘s most historically significant national monument. Once the biggest silver mine in the world, its riches bankrolled the entire Spanish new world empire – such wealth, however, came at a horrifying cost, with millions losing their lives to the ‘mountain that eats men’.

The potential of Cerro Rico (in English, ‘Rich Mountain’) was first discovered by the Incas as they marched into the region from modern day Peru. The Incas forced the native inhabitants to mine the mountain as slaves, although the scale of the industry was relatively small at that time. It wasn’t until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century that exhaustive exploitation of the mountain took place. Both the Incas and the natives were forced to work in brutal conditions, and many died from overexertion.

To compensate for the diminishing number of workers, the Spanish imported slaves from Africa by the boatload. Some 30,000 were forcibly shipped over to the continent, many of whom perished under the mountain due to the treacherous conditions involved. Those who did survive later migrated to warmer parts of Bolivia to form the current Afro-Boliviano community. The story of their plight continues to be told today through the country’s traditional folkloric music and dance.

During colonial times, an unfathomable eight million slaves were estimated to have died in the mines of Cerro Rico – a nauseating statistic that justifies its moniker as the ‘mountain that eats men’.

The mountain today
Working conditions have improved a little since the Spanish were in charge, though they remain far from ideal. Despite the mountain being largely depleted of silver, some 15,000 miners enter every day in search of precious minerals. The money that comes out of modern day Cerro Rico is modest, but is an absolute necessity for an impoverished region with few other sources of income.


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Reply Cerro Rico production stops after nearly 500 years (Original post)
Judi Lynn Apr 2020 OP
pansypoo53219 Apr 2020 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Fri Apr 24, 2020, 07:47 AM

1. there is 4 potosi's in the states. i knew about potosi, wi. i thought it was just a general.

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