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Visit the cooperative mines in Potosi, Bolivia

[ 1 ] June 20, 2011 | Alison Adey

Plannng to visit the cooperative mines in Potosi? Prepare to be shocked as you experience the terrible working conditions that thousands of men endure every day.

Many work in total darkness for 12 hours straight – usually without food and water – extracting minerals such as silver ore and zinc. They use only basic materials and are exposed to toxic chemicals that can lead to silicosis pneumonia, an almost certain death.

Workers in the cooperative mines, Potosi - Pictures of the mines - Fabulous Travel Guide

A worker prepares to squeeze into a tiny hole in the cooperative mines in Potosi

Booking your tour

Tours cost from 80 Bs (£7) and include hostel pickup, transport to the miners’ market where you can buy cocoa leaves, drinks and cigarettes for the workers, a tour of the refinery and a 2-hour crawl through the mines themselves.

Good companies (such as Koala Tours) will provide a helmet, head lamp, protective clothing and English-speaking guides (if needed). Make sure they explain all the risks and give you plenty of time to ask questions. If possible book with an ex-miner – this way you’ll be in the best possible hands if something goes wrong.

Be warned! You are in a fully working mine where accidents happen on a daily basis. Don’t do this tour if you have any medical problems or are prone to claustrophobia. You’ll be 60m underground with no easy way out!

Already feeling the adrenaline pumping? Death Road in La Paz is another awesome adventure. Get more travel tips and advice by following us on Twitter!

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Category: Adventure, Bolivia, Fun stuff!, Potosi, South America

About Alison Adey: I was previously Channel Editor for IPC's Homes network (;; and but I bid them a fond farewell in December 2010 to embark on this trip. I also worked for as a features writer for two years. View author profile.

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  1. [...] TIP If you are at all claustrophobic then do the Standard Tour. It can get very humid in the some of the chambers and some guests have [...]

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