The Mountain that Eats Men

Located high in the Bolivian Andes, the story of Cerro Rico is one of death and misery.   It is the eroded core of an ancient Miocene volcano.  In 2016, when I visited, the smell of death lurked everywhere.  Everyone that I spoke with had lost family members and friends to work on that mountain.  Everyone.  A combination of mine accidents and silicosis, the irreversible black lung disease that affects many underground miners.

Cerro Rico and Potosi, the town that sits at its base, were among the most incredible places that I have ever visited.  Modern-day mining is thought to have commenced in 1545, but it is believed that silver was first discovered there around 1000AD, prior to the commencement of the Incan conquest and occupation.  From that time on, until after the departure of the Incas in the 15th Century, thousands of tonnes of silver are thought to have been mined.

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