Cooperative Mines of Cerro Rico
Mines of Cerro Rico idol © Ahron de Leeuw
Entering the mines is like stepping back in time, given that current mining conditions remain untouched by modern advances. Indeed, they're much the same as when the Spanish used Andean peasants as slave labourers to extract the rich silver deposit. The experience involves guided tours leading groups along the narrow tunnels and up rickety ladders, stopping along the way to chat to working miners. Visitors won't struggle to find a tour operator offering trips out of Potosi, and the best guides tend to be former miners. Travellers should also consider that these trips, though fascinating, are potentially dangerous. For ethical reasons, tourists should perhaps remember that many people in contemporary Bolivia have no choice but to accept this hazardous life.