Dating mining men
Named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987, along with the city of Potosi, the mountain’s unmistakable form appears on Bolivia’s currency and the national shield.
In 2009, the government suspended San Bartolomé from working near the peak after pressure from civic groups, though it continues to work above 4,400 meters in an area known as Huacajchi, which the company says is outside the Cerro Rico cone formation.
Today, after nearly 500 years of constant mining for the silver, tin and zinc that funded the Spanish empire and shaped Bolivia’s economic fortunes, Cerro Rico’s bones are weakened, and its iconic peak is caving in.
Now the race is on to reinforce the mountaintop and save this national monument through a government-funded .4 million fill-in project.
Bolivia’s state-owned mining company, commonly known by its Spanish acronym COMIBOL, predicted that in 2014 the fill-in project would be complete and the top of Cerro Rico restored to its former shape.
But last December the summit once again crumbled, and rock continues to tumble as if through a giant funnel into the depths of the mountain.