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The Cerro Rico mountain towers over 700m above the city of Potosî in Southwestern Bolivia. One of the oldest and most productive silver mines in the world, mining here began in 1545 and Potosî became the site of the Spanish colonial mint. Up to an estimated 8 million people are believed to died in the mines since the 16th century, most of them slaves. Jan 17, 2019.

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Miners from the Candelaria mine, one of 180 operational mines in the Cerro Rico, push wagons laden with zinc ore above ground. The altitude of over 4000m makes the physical work especially demanding. Jan 17, 2019.

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A woman in traditional Bolivian dress sells Saltiñas, a local version of an empanada, in the Mercado De Mineros, early in the morning. The miner's market sits just below the Cerro Rico and primarily sells cheap street food, tools, coca leaves, alcohol, cigarettes and dynamite. Jan 15, 2019.

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A Bolivian woman chews coca leaves, an Andean staple, at her stall in the miner's market, beneath the Cerro Rico mountain, in Potosî, Bolivia. The huge sacks in front of her contain coca leaves a bag of which can be bought for 5Bs (0.75 USD). An essential part of the miner's lives, as they perform demanding physical labour above 4000m. Jan 15, 2019.

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A view over the city of Potosî, in Southwestern Bolivia, from the Cerro Rico. The Rich Hill doesn't just tower above the city physically but economically, employing around 15000 people, 10% of the population. Jan 15, 2019.

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19 year old Vidal uses a hammer and iron bar to create a hole for dynamite, in the Grito De Piedra (Scream Of The Stone) mine of the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. Much of the exploratory work is done by hand due to a lack of equipment and health fears about the effects of large quantities of dust. Jan 15, 2019.

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A 16 year old miner who didn't give his name, poses for a portrait outside the Grito De Piedra mine, in the Cerro Rico mountain above Potosî, Bolivia. Although the mines are called cooperatives, they do not operate on an equal basis. New miners have to work for others for between 2 and 6 years before being officially recognised as miners in their own right and are typically given the worst jobs during this time. Jan 15, 2019.

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An Australian tour group in protective clothing squeeze into a 4x4 in the city of Potosî, Bolivia, before taking a tour of the Cerro Rico mines with Big Deal Tours. Potosî is littered with tour operators offering tours of the mines but the most ethical, like Big Deal Tours, are run by ex-miners. Jan 16, 2019.

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Pedro, 37, an ex-miner and the owner of the Big Deal Tours agency, talks to an Australian tour group at a mineral processing plant in the city of Potosî, Bolivia. The tour groups visit the miner's market to buy small gifts of coca leaves, soda and dynamite before visiting the processing plants and then the Cerro Rico, which can be seen behind. Jan 16, 2019.

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An Australian tour group with Big Deal Tours, ventures into the first, relatively safe level of the Grito de Piedra mine, in the Cerro Rico, above Potosî, Bolivia. The tour groups visit the miner's market to buy small gifts of coca leaves, soda and dynamite before visiting the processing plants and then the Cerro Rico. Jan 16, 2019.

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Members of one of the families that live outside the mines on the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. Poor families, often headed by the widows of dead miners, scratch a living from collecting waste minerals and acting as security at night. Jan 16, 2019.

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15 year old Samwell breaks rocks in the Grito De Piedro mine, of the Cerro Rico, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. Although the official age for beginning work in the mines is 18, thousands of children work unofficially, sometimes, like Samwell, during their school holidays. Jan 16, 2019.

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A young boy plays with a broken spade around the mine entrances on the Cerro Rico mountain abover Potosî, Bolivia. Many of the young children of poor families turn the steep, rocky and dangerous slopes of the Rich Hill into their playground. Jan 16, 2019.

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Miners in the Candalaria mine of the Cerro Rico, Potosî, Bolivia, fill a mine cart with zinc ore. Working in teams, miners can find, collect and move to the surface, many tons of ore per day, per man. Jan 17, 2019.

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A view of the mines on the lower portion of the Cerro Rico, above Potosî, Bolivia. The original name of the mountain is Surmaq Urqu, or 'beautiful mountain' in Quechua, although it obvious that the name was coined before nearly five centuries of industrial evisceration. Jan 17, 2019.

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Workers from the Candalaria mine in the Cerro Rico mountain above Potosî, Bolivia, assemble for a morning meeting. Each of the miners is carrying a bag of coca leaves which they chew constantly to avoid exhaustion and hunger. The average miner spends an estimated 13% of their wages on coca; horrifying when a days supply can be bought for 0.75USD. Jan 17, 2019.

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Miners move a cart loaded with sacks of mineral ore, through the Santa Ellena mine in the Cerro Rico mountain, above Potosî, Bolivia. Each of the sacks can weigh 50kg, the carts lack breaks and the tunnels are often just wide enough to fit through. Jan 17, 2019.

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A miner with a wad of coca in his cheek, pauses for breath while working in the Candalaria mine of the Cerro Rico, Potosî, Southwestern Bolivia. The miners chew coca constantly to avoid hunger, exhaustion and the effects of the 4000m+ of altitude. Jan 17, 2019.

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14 year old Alex prepares 'Taco', explosive charges for older miners further into the tunnels of the Candelaria mine, in the Cerro Rico, above Potosî, Bolivia. Although the official age for starting work in the mine is 18, there is little to no oversight and many teenage boys need to help provide for their families. Jan 17, 2019.

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A woman in tradional Andean dress, tends a grave in the area of Potosî cemetery reserved for miners. People are generally buried in areas denoted by their employment in life with the mining co-ops building large mausoleums to house their departed members. Jan 25, 2019.

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Doña Carmen, mother of fourteen children, with her three youngest; Javier 3 (far left), Soraya 7 (far right) and Jubenal 9 (centre right), collect waste minerals left by the trucks, outside the Grito De Piedra mine, on the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. Doña Carmen's husband was a miner who died of silicosis, leaving her widowed with a large family. The widows of miners frequently live just outside the mines in simple buildings, where they collect waste minerals and are paid a little money by the mining cooperatives to act as nighttime security. Jan 17, 2019.

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A miner makes a small offering of a cigarette to the statue of El Tio, in the Santa Ellena mine of the Cerro Rico, above Potosî, Bolivia. Each of the 180 mines in the Cerro Rico has at least one statue of El Tio, who resembles the devil. The miners offer coca leaves, cigarettes and alcohol to El Tio in exchange for ore and his protection. Jan 17, 2019.

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A miner in the Candalaria mine in the Cerro Rico mountain above Potosî, Bolivia, finds good quality zinc ore, known as Chocolaté. Although the mountain is most famous for the huge quantaties of silver that bankrolled the Spanish empire for centuries, today the most common, profitable ore is zinc. Jan 17, 2019.

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Soraya, 7, plays amongst the carcasses of disused mine carts, on the slopes of the Cerro Rico, Potosî, Bolivia. Soraya comes from one of the poor families forced to live outside the mine and scratch a living from waste minerals and keeping watch of the mines at night. Jan 17, 2019.

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A miner pushes his tools ahead of him as he crawls through a tiny tunnel, deep underground in the Candalaria mine, in the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. The 'Rich Hill', contains 180 mines, some nearly 500 years old and no working plan or map exists. The lack of structural support in many of the tunnels combined with the use of dynamite means cave-ins are a constant risk. Jan 17, 2019.

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Don Sîmon, a veteran miner of 32 years is the longest serving in the Grito De Piedra mine, in the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia. However, after recently having an accident with dynamite while exploring for minerals, he has lost the use of his right completely and has only limited use of his left. He continues to mine and still uses dynamite. Jan 16, 2019.

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Despite losing most of his sight in a dynamite accident only weeks earlier, Don Sîmon, a veteran miner of 32 years, lights a fuse in a 2x2x2m cave with a tiny exit tunnel, deep underground in the Grito De Piedra mine. A lack of oversight and options forces miners to take risks however injured miners often receive aid from their peers and from tour agencies. Jan 18, 2019

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A sign on a building near the Cerro Rico mines, reads in english: "Without miners, you don't have Potosî". Potosî became one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the new world and the site of the Spanish colonial mint until independence in 1825, although the unstable price of ore on the international market has damaged the economy. Jan 17, 2019.

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Hundreds of metres underground in the Santa Ellena mine of the Cerro Rico, miners fill baskets with ore, ready for transport to the upper levels and eventually, to the trucks outside the mine. These baskets can weigh upto 300kg and many of the winches are hand operated. Jan 17, 2019.

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A religious procession dances past the Cathedral of Santiago de Potosî, in Potosî, Bolivia. Despite the hardships of the mine, Potosî is thriving city with a rich culture that the tourism sector is continuing to make good use of. Jan 25, 2019.

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The Cerro Rico mountain looms over the historic central district of Potosî in Southwestern Bolivia. The mountain is the reason for the city's existence, due to the huge quantities of silver that bankrolled the Spanish empire and made Potosî the site of the colonial mint. Jan 12, 2019.

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The influence of the mining is present everywhere in Potosî in Southwestern Bolivia. Here, two young girls play next to a street mural entitled "Mineros", or 'Miners' in english. Jan 12, 2019.

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Miners, Beto (left), Moises (centre) and Fransisco (right), from the Grito De Piedra (Scream Of The Stone) mine of the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia, smoke and drink while chewing coca leaves on a Friday afternoon, during a weekly ritual. The miners of the 'Rich Hill' are extremely superstitious and pay homage to a statue resembling the devil, called El Tio (The Uncle), which exists in every mine. They offer the statue cigarettes, alcohol and coca in the hope he will gift them more minerals and protect them the following week. Jan 18, 2019.

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Miners from the Grito De Piedra (Scream Of The Stone) mine of the Cerro Rico mountain, above the city of Potosî, Bolivia, smoke and drink while chewing coca leaves on a Friday afternoon, during a weekly ritual. The miners of the 'Rich Hill' are extremely superstitious and pay homage to a statue resembling the devil, called El Tio (The Uncle), which exists in every mine. They offer the statue cigarettes, alcohol and coca in the hope he will gift them more minerals and protect them the following week. The ritual is typically led by the ‘Presidenté’ of the mine, visible here third from left, named José Garabito. Jan 18, 2019.

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The shape of the Cerro Rico mountain can be seen even at night, towering over Potosî, Southwestern Bolivia. Jan 25, 2019.

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