lama 2.jpg (8165 byte)

Andes: Mountains and Minerals


attesa treno.jpg (10483 byte)
salares 4.jpg (7701 byte)
laguna 4.jpg (4621 byte)
stregoneria 2.jpg (10633 byte)
Bolivia is Tibet of the American continent: among the republics of Latin America it is mostly that isolated and situated to the more altitudes elevated.   Bolivia extends him on a labyrinth of mountains, hills and irregular valleys up to the vast forests of the Rio of the Amazzoni,  and is characterized from deeply different geographical and climatic zones among them.    This country possesses imposing landscapes, colonial treasures, different native cultures and rests of mysterious ancient civilizations. Its natural attractions space from the top of the Cordillera of the Andeses to the severe beauty and the amazing colors of the lakes and the deserts, from the river streets suffocated by the jungle.   To visit Bolivia is as to cross an enormously distant world from ours, with cultural and social characteristics, traditions, landscapes and people deeply variegated  among them.    The visit of Bolivia surely has to include the stupendous Andean landscapes of the colored lagoons to the border with Chile, the endless expanse of salt of the Salares Uyuni, the ancient city of Tiahuanaco, the legendary mines of Potosė, the colored native markets, the elaborate colonial cities.

From the mining point of view Bolivia has covered an important role in the past with the famous mine of Potosė that has developed a fundamental role for the development and the following decadence of the Spanish domination.
The Bolivian silver-tin province is located along the eastern Andes, running from Oruro in the north to Pirquitas (Argentina) in the south.   Potosė is in the middle of the silver-tin province, but in the twenty-first century the mines of Oruro, Lallagua, and Morococala are most important.   Further, these districts have produced many outstanding specimens that survive in mineral collections worldwide.


bolivia_min.jpg (131088 byte) 1) Oruro

2) Huanuny Mine

3) Cerro Rico - Potosė

4) Llagua

5) Morococala

6) Colquechaca

7) Trinacria Mine - Poopo

8) Salares de Uyuni


Oruro is an important mineral district, in the top of the town there is the monument to the mineras and under the church you can visit the tunnel of an old mine.   In the mountain there is the San Josč Mine in which is possible find small gypsum crystals, the mines are mostly closed.  

The town is in the center of a number of mines that depart from  this area and arrive to Potosi', among the others, minerals extracted by this area are silver, lead, tin ,etc.

The city was founded in 1606 and close to the town there is a volcanic cone with several silver veins. The area was first developed for the silver veins, but later it became very important due to the tin production. Some very interesting and rare minerals come from this group of  mines, among which cylindrite, andorite, teallite and Frankeite.


Huanuny   is a small minerary village with mining tools and systems still now very rudimentary and poor.  

The miners are not allowed to sell the minerals and they can be fired in case they sell you some samples ( vivianite, mainly ).

Along the creek coming out of the mine and near the river it is possible to observe some small decantation basins used by the local people to find some mineral (cassiterite concentrates) that is discarded  by the main mine works.

The most important minerals from this mine are Vivianite, Cassiterite, Fluorite, ecc.

huanuni 1.jpg (10162 byte) huanuni 3.jpg (7539 byte)
huanuni 2.jpg (8579 byte) huanuni 4.jpg (9768 byte)


Potosi was the most important mineralogical center of the Andes and still now Cerro Rico is the most famous silver mine of the country.   The discovery of ore in silver-rich Cerro Rico (rich hill) by Indian Diego Huallpa in 1544 prompted the foundation of the city of Potosí on April 10th, 1545 at the foot of the hill. The city was born under the name of Villa Imperial de Carlos V, in honor of then Spanish king Carlos V. Its founder was Juan de Villarroel. Large-scale excavation began in the site immediately and the first of the silver was sent to Spain. In 1672, a mint was established to coin silver and water reservoirs were built to fulfill the growing population's needs. At that time more than eighty six churches were built and the city's population increased to nearly 200,000, making it one of the largest and wealthiest city in Latin America and in the world. On December 11, 1987 (in Paris, France), the UNESCO declared the city of Potosí a "World Heritage Site" in recognition for its rich history and its wealth of colonial architecture. This mine and this city were of worldwide importance at the time of the Spanish empire and essential to Spain.

Now the works on the Cerro Rico mine are in practice stopped, they continue on  non industrial scale, due to the personal initiative of some miners that alone or in small cooperatives continue to exploit the mine mainly with hand tools.

Nowadays it is possible to visit the mine  and even to participate to the mining activity, ask in the city for this...

Close to one of the entrance of the mine there is a totem representing a god half man and half devil to whom the miners give some offers, mainly coca leaves and alcohol, tobacco and other things to ask for lucky in finding some new mineral veins .

Close to the mine there is also a small market selling all the possible tools useful in the  mining activity: coca leaves, alcool, dynamite, lights, etc.

cerro rico 1.jpg (47196 byte)


The Llallagua Mine is located 75 Km southeast of Oruro; this mine is very famous among the minerals collectors for the exceptional gemmy quality cassiterite crystals, wolframite, stannite, wurtzite, bismuthinite, and especially for the rare phosphates in fantastic associations, among them the recent finds of vivianite and ludlamite in probably the best samples of the world.


Morococaca is an important mineral district situated in southeast area of Oruro; many important specimens came from these mine.  


Just 25 Km south of  Llallagua is the  now abandoned Colquechaca mining camp, and in it there are two important mine named Embudo and Gallofa.  From this mine many remarkable specimens: Pyrargyrite, Stephanite, Acanthite. 

Trinacria Mine - Poopo

The Santa Cruz and Trinacria Mine, located near Poopō produced one of the most unusual sulfosalts known: Cylindrite.  Other minerals from these mines are Teallite and Franckeite.

Salares de Huyuni

Salares de Uyuni is the largest Salar in the world, it look extraordinarily flat, white and smooth.  The salar is a big ore of salt that is partially locally developed; in this area there are places here with a substantial lithium content

salares 1.jpg (8135 byte) salares 2.jpg (5578 byte) salares 3.jpg (3672 byte)

HOME11.gif (6343 byte) lama 2.jpg (8165 byte)
Andes Home Report e-mail us