Potosi: Cerro Rico awaits funding for its protection

The website www.hoybolivia.com reports about Potosi and one of our most important emblems:

The Deputy Minister for productive development mining, Freddy Beltrán, reported that the Government was awaiting an economic contribution from Unesco, to start the full rehabilitation of the cusp of the Cerro Rico in the Potosí Department.

“Is hoping that Unesco can contribute economically to make the rehabilitation more integral on the top of the mountain”, said.

The Cerro Rico, one of the most important deposits of silver in the world, was declared Intangible Heritage by the United Nations. It suffers from subsidence, as reported in 2010, by ruthless exploitation for over 500 years. (The cartoon on the left was also portrayed in an earlier post; it was published in La Razon, May 26, 2011.)

The last sinking, a 38 meters of radio and at least 40 meters deep, was recorded in January. At an elevation of 4,400 meters above sea level, subsidence happened on the cusp of that site, a reason why Unesco gave different recommendations for their rehabilitation and care.

Beltrán recalled that this process of rehabilitation is being handled by the Bolivian Mining Corporation (COMIBOL) and the Ministry of Cultures, as well as looking at the possibility of halting operations on the cusp and to look for the possibility of relocating those who work for the mining cooperatives that exploit that deposit to other sectors of the mountain.

He also said that the study has been completed and has been delivered to the cooperative sector so they can implement the recommendations.


So much for sovereignty and anti colonialism political discourse; this government also brags about having lots of money in the bank; having all the above, government is now waiting for an international organization to solve a major national problem. The Cerro Rico is part of our history, is the central part of our National Shield, but they have to wait for aid… like subsidence is going to wait…

Knowing the people of Potosi, I could say that they like their heritage pretty much but also suffer from what I call the “mining-habitat,” that is they have lived all their lives; even more, they are part of generations, who for the last 500 years have engaged in mining practices; most of them do not even realize the danger of a collapse of the perforated mountain.

Many Potosinos, mostly miners or people who make a living around the mining sector, have serious ‘issues’ acknowledging environmental issues, or degradation. And that is not bad, they simply are not aware of, the way mining has been practiced for so many centuries is a fact of life for them.

This can only mean that people from Potosi have to undergo a serious and comprehensive training program on environmental degradation and/or mitigation issues. It is not like they will react like other people confronting extractive activities: not for them to ask/demand compensation funds, they have been living like that, as so did their families for generations.

People in Potosi, have to be aware of that it is not only their lives that could be lost, but the central part of Bolivia’s history could disappear…

Current government is keen about offering land elsewhere in Bolivia to highlanders, in this case, such offer doesn’t have to be outside Potosi but in other mining operations close to Potosi city; an offer that certainly has central government’s funding; and if the government is grateful to that region, where inevitable and in more than one crucial election, most of the people voted for this government, so… it is pay back time.

Aside of last paragraph’s considerations, I strongly believe that all governments: central, regional and municipal have to and MUST find solutions, but FAST!!

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