Next Time You’re In Bolivia Check Out The Mountain That ‘Eats Men’

Cerro Rico, is a mountain found in the Andes near the Bolivian City of Potosi. The mountain became famous due to the high amounts of Silver it produced for Spain during the New World Spanish Empire.

At the time the city of Potosi became one of the largest cities in the New World due to the large deposits of Silver found in the mountain. Sometime after the 1800’s the Silver mines ran dry and a slow economic decline of the region set in. Still, to this day, the mountain is still mined for silver. Cerro Rico has over time become known as the ‘Mountain that Eats Men’.

Historian Eduardo Galeano estimates that 8 million men have died on the mountain since the 1600’s, but many critics believe that figure is an exaggeration. However difficult it may be to accurately say how many have died on the mountain, it is generally believed to be a huge amount. Centuries of mining the mountain has left Cerro Rico riddled with thousands of holes and tunnels making the mountain highly unstable and experts believe there is a serious risk of the mountain actually collapsing.

The summit of Cerro Rico continues to sink a few centimetres every year, and, in 2011 a sinkhole appeared at the top of the mountain and had to be filled with cement. 2014 saw UNESCO adding Cerro Rico and to its list of endangered sites due to the uncontrolled mining degrading the site. Due to the instability of the mountain, dozens of men and boys still die annually from cave-ins and collapses in the holes and tunnels.

The working conditions are brutal, and with a lack of protective equipment against conditions the highest death toll comes from the inhalation of dust leading to the lung disease Silicosis, Silicosis is caused when the dust enters the lung causing scarring of the tissue followed by bronchitis like symptoms. Fever, Chest pains, weight loss and weakness lead to an early death. The local Widows association say that up to 14 women are widowed each month by the mountain.