High in the mountainous regions of Bolivia are the large complexes of mines that pour out the tin that brings in sixty percent of the country's export wealth.
High in the mountainous regions of Bolivia are the large complexes of mines that pour out the tin that brings in sixty percent of the country's export wealth. The largest of these mining areas is Sigleo XX (twenty) two-hundred miles (322 kilometres) southeast of La Paz where about ten-thousand of the country's forty-eight thousand miners work. But conditions, because of the extreme altitude, disease and poverty, are very harsh.
About half of the miners in the Siglo XX area work for COMIBOL - the state mining corporation that has run the mine since it was nationalised twenty years ago. The other half - either unemployed or displaced from exhausted mines - try to eke out a living by working the now-closed mines or by working as "surplus workers" in the state-run mine. But it this latter capacity they are not eligible for company or social benefits.
Most of the miners suffer from the diseases of their treads silicosis (corrosion of the lungs by dust) and tuberculosis being the major killers. Squalid living conditions and malnutrition also Maintain a high death-rate among children.
Miners in Solivia have always been a strong political force, often resulting in bloody clashes with Government troops. The recent deviation of the Bolivian Peso has caused increased pressure on the miners which they say must be countered with concerted action.
SYNOPSIS: High in the Bolivian Andes are the tin mines that supply the country with sixty per cent of its export wealth. This is the largest of the mining areas - called Siglo Twenty - where almost as quarter of all the miners in the country work. This mine is run by the state mining corporation. The working conditions are harsh. Even if the miners are unaffected by the extreme altitude, they cannot escape the choking dust. While the world price of tin has been rising over the past few years, the miner's life has shown little improvement in the hundred years since this mine was first opened. But while life is difficult for the men, at least they have steady employment.
Each day, in a village nearby, miners laid-off from exhausted pits or unemployed start out on a trip that takes them even higher into the mountains in a search for tin ore. They work in areas almost cleared of ore, in extremely dangerous conditions.
These men go into shafts filled with poisonous gases in search of the valuable metal. They can only stay in the mine for -short periods before being forced to the surface for fresh air. Other men clamber over the rock face, chipping small pieces of rock rich in tin ore. But from all this effort the miners get to keep only about fifteen per cent of the ore's value. The rest goes to pay for the right to mine the area, taxes, and export it.
Over the years, the miners in bolivia have represented a strong political force, at times, resulting in bloody conflicts with Government forces. A recent devaluation of the Bolivian Peso has caused increased pressure on the miners - who already live as meagre existence.
An informal union meeting discusses ways of improving their lot and the lot of the miners employed in the state-run pits.
Moist miners suffer from diseases related to their trade. This man has silicosis, a corrosion of the lungs caused by dust. Others suffer from tuberculosis. But most miners continues to work despite their illnesses. At the state-run mine, about five mine workers die each week. A carpenter's shop just outside the shaft entrance specialises in supplying coffins.
The company pays for the coffin and the burial of their workers because, otherwise, their families could not af??? to do so. This cemetery is filled almost exclusively with miners killed on the job o??? in the periodic slashes with the army. One monument honours a ??? miner. Another, Frederico Escobar, a union leader.