Bolivia's man-eating mountain

Cerro Rico, mining lifeline of Potosi community in Bolivia is beginning to collapse, while miners demand rights.

Yiannis Biliris | | Poverty & Development, Business & Economy, Latin America, Bolivia

Potosi, Bolivia - Potosi recently gained media attention when miners blocked accesses to the city in July 2015. They were engaged in a standoff with the government, demanding infrastructural investment. For 11 days, all access into the city was blocked, leaving it without sufficient petrol, food or money. 

Mining in Bolivia became important in the 16th century and has tirelessly shaped the economy and political life of the country since.

Cerro Rico, which means the Rich Mountain in Spanish, is located in the Andes mountain range in South America and overlooks the city of Potosi, which was founded in 1546, after silver deposits were discovered in the mountain.

Cerro Rico is also known as 'The Man-Eating Mountain' because when the Quechua and African slaves were first sent to mine the mountain, they were trapped underground for several weeks and many never re-emerged. 

After almost 500 years of mining, the top of Cerro Rico started to collapse, creating a sinkhole which sinks a few centimetres deeper every year despite government efforts to stabilise it with light cement. 

The solution would be to stop the mining, but depriving the city of its main activity is not considered an option for the population of whom 15,000 are miners.

Related: Dozens arrested as Bolivia miners clash with police


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