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Inside the mine "Grito de Piedra" in Potosi

Cédric JAGER | Bolivia

The Cerro Rico (Rich mountain) culminates at 4 782 meters and dominates the city of Potosi, peaking at 4 070 meters. But after 470 years of digging, the mountain is on the brink of collapse, threatening the city. The Bolivian government has invested 2,4 millions euros trying to counter this threat, effort deemed insufficient by the experts.

Very rich and powerful city in the Spanish Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, more populated than Paris at the same time because of the biggest silver ore reserve ever discovered in the Cerro Rico Mountain, Potosi is today the shadow of itself. 15 000 miners organized in cooperatives are still working in the mountain that overlooks one of the poorest city in South America.

Through this coverage, I wanted to document the very harsh working conditions of the Bolivian miners in the former biggest silver seam ever discovered in the world, in Potosi. I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the miners of the mine "Grito de Piedra" before going down inside the mine. Before that, what struck me reading articles about the miners was their terrible living conditions. Their choice to work inside a mine was actually no choice at all. Completely abandoned by the Bolivian State, their average life expectancy is very low, usually with bad health. In the mine, accidents are common. When I went inside the mine (three times, for about 12 hours), what I saw reminded me of a French novel by Emile Zola, Germinal, telling the story of coal miners in the north of France in the nineteenth century. The life of the workers seem less important than the ore they extract.
I tried to show the working conditions and the way they extract the ores with the very basic resources they have.

cedricjager@hotmail.fr

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