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In 2012, the Bolivian government began an ambitious project to pump ultra-light cement into the peak, stabilizing the brittle rock and halting its inward collapse.
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.
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.
Aside from mining, there is very little industry here, but tourism is already a secondary source of income and could provide an alternate livelihood for thousands of people.
But for Potosi to maintain its historic value, the mountain must survive not only its crumbling peak, but dozens of other sinkholes that pock its flanks.
A COMIBOL plan to pump rock already stripped of minerals into the growing hole has been approved; work begins today.
According to Jhonny Lllally, the head of Potosi’s Civic Committee, an umbrella group of unions and other city organizations, the responsibility for this continued sinking lies with those miners who are working within 1,000 feet of the peak.
“Every day I see the Cerro, and I see my landscape,” says Luis Osvaldo Cruz Llanos, secretary of culture and tourism for the department of Potosi.
Cruz Llanos’ father was a lifelong miner, and for him, like many natives of this colonial city, the mountain is part of his identity, and the thought of the peak collapsing is personal.
POTOSI, Bolivia — The Andes mountain range surrounds this city in southwestern Bolivia, but there is one that stands apart from the rest — tall, red and almost perfectly conical.
This is Potosi’s Cerro Rico, or Rich Hill, a mountain so heavily laced with silver that it has become legend.
“We continue working, and we will continue,” says Santiago Cruz Palomino, vice president of FEDECOMIN, Potosi’s organization of cooperative miners.