Since colonial times, Potosi has been a world famous mining city. The mountain dominating over Potosi city is Cerro Rico, also called by the locals “the mountain which eats men”. During the 16th century, its numerous and profitable mines made it the second largest city in the Americas after Mexico City and primary sponsor to the Spanish Monarchy. It was estimated that from the 16th century more than 8 million miners died due to accidents or diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances.
Even today, the conflicts that emerge relating to the exploitation of mineral resources at Potosi and involve several actors: the Government, mines, social movements, workers, and unions.
Each of the 15.000 miners of Cerro Rico is the member of one of the 16 cooperatives which enjoy a lease contract granted by the Bolivian State.
the workers have no insurance and no right to a pension. Such precarious situation for the miners also places a higher burden on their wives who have to take care of their husbands’ health and their existence becomes even harder if they become a widow. Sad isn’t it?
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