Plannng to visit the cooperative mines in Potosi? Prepare to be shocked as you experience the terrible working conditions that thousands of men endure every day.
Many work in total darkness for 12 hours straight – usually without food and water – extracting minerals such as silver ore and zinc. They use only basic materials and are exposed to toxic chemicals that can lead to silicosis pneumonia, an almost certain death.
Booking your tour
Tours cost from 80 Bs (£7) and include hostel pickup, transport to the miners’ market where you can buy cocoa leaves, drinks and cigarettes for the workers, a tour of the refinery and a 2-hour crawl through the mines themselves.
Good companies (such as Koala Tours) will provide a helmet, head lamp, protective clothing and English-speaking guides (if needed). Make sure they explain all the risks and give you plenty of time to ask questions. If possible book with an ex-miner – this way you’ll be in the best possible hands if something goes wrong.
Be warned! You are in a fully working mine where accidents happen on a daily basis. Don’t do this tour if you have any medical problems or are prone to claustrophobia. You’ll be 60m underground with no easy way out!