Bolivia indigenous miners drown in desert – eyewitness

EPA Indigenous boys in Bolivia have drowned in the Atacama desert, and authorities have said illegal mining is to blame. They say the boys were retrieving a satellite-guided explosive that fires a water cannon…

Bolivia indigenous miners drown in desert - eyewitness

EPA

Indigenous boys in Bolivia have drowned in the Atacama desert, and authorities have said illegal mining is to blame.

They say the boys were retrieving a satellite-guided explosive that fires a water cannon at local miners, aimed at silos holding gold and lead.

Local workers deny the charge, and say the boys were digging for gold, but not dredging.

They say the explosives represent an increased risk of drowning, but they are used in the desert, and have been for decades.

At the weekend four indigenous boys died after attempting to retrieve the explosive at Bolivia’s Rondona mine.

Correspondents say the Atacama desert is a treasure trove for illegal miners, who reportedly contend that although the mining is illegal, the explosives represent an enhanced risk of drowning because they play havoc with the water bodies.

Over the years, many of the neighbouring Jalisco state gold and lead mines have already been destroyed by dowsing by illegal miners and recent years have witnessed at least two incidents in which underground miners were killed when attempting to retrieve the explosives.

However, some say the Minas Pastolas mine, controlled by President Evo Morales’ son, struck a deal with the population, allowing them to continue the dowsing rituals as well as carrying out dredging for small-scale gold and lead miners.

But some survivors have accused Rondona state government authorities of pressuring workers to sign away their rights, which they say even led to death and multiple shootings of unions and families of dowsers.

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