In this column on great deposits, I have discussed those that were rich, big, changed destinies, broke governments and accumulated a wealth of stories. However, only one has definitively changed the world. Cerro Rico, or Potosi in Bolivia, is perhaps the greatest of the great deposits.
It’s origins are shrouded in myth, the wealth proverbial, the toll horrific. The Cerro Rico was the keystone in the arch of colonial Latin American precious metal deposits whose combined wealth provided the single greatest metallic bonanza there was, and likely will be on earth.
Eduardo Galeano has said ” You could build a bridge of pure silver from Potosi to Madrid with ore extracted. And you could build a bridge back with the bones of those who died mining it”
By 1545 Spain had consolidated it’s hold on the it’s new empire. The Aztecs had fallen a quarter century earlier, the Inca’s by 1533 and they were fanning out looking for more.
Depending on the story either the Inca discovered the deposits, but were warned off by spiritual forces who terrified the would be miners (giving it the name Potoji ,”thunderous” in Quecha), or a shepherd looking for his lost sheep built a fire and noticed the trickle of molten silver, or as the archaeology of nearby lake sediments suggests the deposits were known and exploited for over 400 years before the Spanish showed up.
For the rest of this column: https://www.geologyforinvestors.com/cerro-rico-the-greatest-of-the-great/