The Mines of Potosi

December 17, 2008  •  Leave a Comment
400 years ago Potosi was the highest city in the world and biggest and richest in South America. At 4070 meters, it is still the highest... As the supply of Silver diminshed and other sources were discovered around the world Potosi went through a slow, relentless decline. The mines are still active, but these days it is mainly for tin, zinc lead and other low-priced minerals and the revenues are a fraction of what they once were.The city itself is actually one of the most pleasant I've been to so far. And despite the misfortunes of their city, the people seem genuinly happy. More than any other place the streets of Potosi are filled with people at night and there are a number of nice cafes and bars.To the bewilderment of the local population, one of the main tourist attractions is a tour of the mines. Due to the low revenues there has barely been any technological progress and the mines are operated much as they were 50 or 100 years ago. The work is hard and manual and the tunnels are at times extremely narrow (crawl on all four class narrow) and the air is filled with toxic dust. A fascinating place to visit, miserable place to work.Full album here.

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