Gate hell Bolivian Potosi

– Traveler;
– Photographer;
– Computer network specialist;
– Candidate of Biological Sciences.

Punched by the study of high-mountain ecosystems, travel photography and human behavior in extreme environmental conditions.

But at the beginning – a little story. So, 1543. The territory of modern Bolivia is five years as conquered by Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro. A year has passed since the entry into the Spanish Vice-Kingdom of Peru called the top Peru. It was this year that a group of researchers discovered the Incan mining settlement in the Mid-Russian Andes, named Colque Porco, where the first silver mining begins on the continent.

Entrance to the mine, made 400 years ago, is still used.

But already in 1545, thanks to the Diego Huallpa Indian, a whole mountain of silver was found, which Cerro Rico was immediately. Silver Rudnik Potosi.

Mountain, the height of which at that time was 5183 meters, the circle – 5570 meters. The ideal cone of the magmatic breed, thicker soaked in lead, tin, copper, iron, but most of all – silver in the form of chlorides and sulphides. Whole mountain silver. Definitely, the country was not called Argentina.

The only innovation – instead of the conversations, jackhammers are used on compressed air.
Air is fed by the hose system that permeate the corridors (in the picture on the right).

The mine is at an altitude of 4070. Although, in reality, it is more than 500 mines, of which about a hundred work so far. Such height and conditions of terrain demanded delivery absolutely everything: tools, food, water and, of course, people.

Monument of the one who has thousands of names.
Miners say that God reigns on earth and in heaven. And under the ground only the devil lives.
Fallos – a symbol of fertility, a chance to find a good ore custody.

In 1546, the foot of Cerro Rico founded the Imperial City of Potosi. From the initial outpost in 170 Spaniards and 3000 Indians, in two years the village rose to 2500 houses with a population of 14 thousand people. After 12 years – 60 thousand. Another twenty – 125 thousand. Silver passed through the housing Indian hands and stood at the very top of the social pyramid. The luxury and wealth of governors and the rich did not even dream of Roman patricians. It is clear that the appetites grew and miners began to miss. It was then that a total service was introduced for local tribes, obliged to provide 13,500 people for mining work. For a hundred years, local tribes did not become, and the mine got the nickname "Gate hell" (if we translate literally, then "Roth hell").

It was originally believed that the mine would work long, and the streets of miner’s houses were built without any system. But the silver did not dry up and the city rose as on the yeast, attracting Deltsov, Zhulo and all of the orders, from which 32 churches were left already and a number of monasteries and standing along the curve streets. And still on the historical center Potoshi can not be passed and a hundred meters in order not to evoke to the next lawyer.

Silver core.

By the end of the XVI century, 80% of total silver produced in Peru and more than 50% of total silver obtained in the world. To date, the mountain has become below 400 meters, but miners continue to dig, chasing the trolleys by hand and praying the king of these places – Lucifer about to go out alive.

Road to the next level of deep mountain.

Shakhtar’s brigades, from six to sixteen people, consist exclusively of men. Women in mines worked only for three years in history – after the war with a paraguay for the Chaco area. Bolivia then failed and lost about 90% of the adult male population of the country.

Trolley with ore to the lift pulls manually. That still worker.

Each brigade has its own name, which is preserved for decades. People change, but traditions remain. Shakhtar’s son is likely to go down in the mine. No names – there are only nicknames: the devil does not need to know the names.


The author of these lines after lifting from the third level.
As you can work at the lower levels – it is impossible to submit.

The team is divided into three conventional groups: one humpback to the slaughter, the other – pulls the trolley with ore, the third is loaded into the lift. The work of the latter is considered easy – there is fresh air on download, because the temperature is significantly lower and easier to breathe. The right to this work receive only those who worked in the mine at least 15 years. On the surface of ore look after women. Work six to seven days a week. The day off is the second half of the Sunday and holidays, which, how to say, not much. When they manage to do and educate children – I, frankly, I do not know.

Partitions and closing mechanisms serve for decades and, often, change several dislocations: from abandoned tunnels, people endure everything. And, as usual, everything keeps on snot.

Gate hell Bolivian Potosi

View of the lower level from the transition tunnel. Helmet should not be removed even in order to wipe the sweat.

Underground – do not eat. Only drink water and chew the leaves of Coca – the only source of energy for all the time of work. With a small need – uroat the nearest wall (at the outlets of salts it is better not to piss – the chemical reaction with the release of ill-eyed gases is inevitable). And in great need, it seems, do not go. Eat only after work, upstairs, drinking all the fairing dose of alcohol – not all toxins can be removed from the body only with water.

Lens moves for 12 seconds. Before each scene has to wipe. The difference is clearly visible in the photo. By the way, magnificent "mold" on the ceiling beam – growing salts crystals. The real mold here does not even smell.

Ore cores are looking only for themselves – here you need a lot of experience and does it, as a rule, the most "old" in the brigade. It is impossible to raise your eyes on the ceiling, which, of course, no. Metal salts dissolving in groundwater, create a palette of all sorts of caustic connections. And all this crap dripping from above. The lower levels are dangerous by the secretions of gases and therefore, in addition to modern rechargeable lanterns, the people tested with them an uddled carbide lamp. At least one on the brigade. In the presence of dangerous gas, the flame in such a burner changes its color.

Miners rod trolley. Faces fuzzy due to hanging ore dust. Look at them – and after that you still think your work of the shit?

Loading in the lift. Here you can already dry at least breathe. Rudy from the trolley dumps right on "floor" and then load in the Burdyuki. Burdyuk clings to the lift hook and goes upstairs. Now lift – electric. Before the drum was twisted manually.

As a rule, the brigade works by itself. All the mined ore sells processing companies, the revenue received equally divided among the members of the brigade. Usually, miners can already be estimated to estimate the approximate silver content in ore, but the buying company makes chemical analysis and revenue amount may vary. It is clear that with this approach, people seek to find the core thirsty and grace. What often leads to unjustified risks. Every year people die in the mines. The found rich lived closes by an iron grille, so that the brigade did not attend the "prize" – such cases were and, as a rule, ended with the death of "Halyavshchik".

Salt drops on the ceiling. Better not to watch. Will fall into the eye – you will walk one-eyed.

In essence, every little onset in the mine, every hammer – someone’s private territory, which is better not to break. From tourists it is customary to take small "gifts": a bottle of water, a dynamite checker or a bag with the leaves of Koki here will be very appropriate. For the sake of such a thing you can and something to tell. Of course, trying not to break away from work.

Get inside the mine just enough: in the city, the city is full of local offices, ready to provide you with a conductor from among the former miners and the necessary equipment for rent. It is a pity that the gas mask, as well as the respirator in the concept of equipment is not included. The most courageous can go down to the third level of the mines from the available six. Deeper – no empty, because the chance does not go back quite high. Yes, and at the third level of hell, it is enough to make an inexorable desire to crawl rather upwards, and expires enough for a long time.

Mountain Serro Rico. View from the satellite from GoogleMap.
As if everything was wished by termites. Only in the role of termites here – people.

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