Rus Articles Journal

Rich mountain : how Europe in America extracted silver?

Silver, as well as gold, and copper, meet in the form of nuggets. And therefore the person knows from antiquity, since the time of prehistoric. Native silver comes across rather seldom, has impurity of mercury, antimony, gold. So since ancient times people looked for and found both silver ore, and ways of production from it white metal (silver in language of chemical symbols - Ag, Argentum, and the name from Greek " happens; Argos - white).

The value of silver was defined by its beauty, chemical firmness and, of course, a metal rarity in the nature. And in the last sense this value fell with detection all of new and new fields.

At the beginning of civilizations when silver was used as money in the countries between Indus and Nile, it cost only two and a half times cheaper than gold. When silver began to be extracted, in particular, in Greece - in the 9th century BC. - it against gold was fifteen times cheaper.

Silver mines of Western Europe were exhausted - and the Japanese and American silver stepped on the stage. Its cost decreased, but not so, of course, to eliminate this beautiful metal of precious.

Here also came it is time to answer a question of heading. Silver was extracted awfully, brutally! Extracted silver from ore amalgamation.

Sense of process - in property of other chemical element, mercury (Hg, Hydrargyrum, from Greek hyudrargiros - liquid silver) to form amalgam with metals, dissolving metal, to separate it thus from dead rock. Then mercury is sublimated, and the kritsa - irregular shape a piece is formed of pure porous metal. These pieces easy; that it was more convenient to transport, such silver was melted into ingots. Ancient Rome it here amalgamation extracted gold, Carthage - silver.

And here - old stuff was peddled. Extraction of silver in the Central and South America was based on local silver ores and... on imported mercury. One of the most considerable South American silver fields was open in 1546 in Serro`s mountains - - Potosi. Extraction of silver kept on mercury from the Spanish Almadena (the field keeping the value from antiquity on our time) here.

Already by the end of the 16th century production of silver from the " field; Rich mountain (It is gray - Rico) was quite industrial. Dangers of extraction of ore in the conditions of highlands, in seismically dangerous area quite paid off low cost of labor. From mines caravans of vehicles delivered silver ore to the place of processing. By means of water wheels (and water arrived from a mountain reservoir, from thawing of snow) ore was crushed, the hammer split up this semi-finished product in " flour;.

Then ore flour in special paved tanks mixed up with mercury. Naturally, with mercury cold - that did not evaporate till time. And numerous Indians - legs mixed ore flour with mercury in dough. Day after day kneaded this dough - were ill, died, tried to run from inevitable death, but, being caught, came back to this terrible work. Strength was given by a chewing gum from leaves cooks.

The mining settlement of Potosi in the Andes, the city - an ulcer according to the French historian F. Brodel, brought together in itself more than hundred thousand people, according to some information - to two hundred thousand. And these people were - slaves. In the settlement human life cost nothing, but chicken cost 8 reals...

The XVI-XVII century - a time of blossoming of the colonial city of Potosi. Extraction of silver made for if not slaves, then owners huge profit - based both on legal, and on illicit trade silver. From that time there were in the city ancient constructions of high art advantage.

Dying of the city began in the middle of the 18th century when exhaustion of reserves of ore became obvious. By 1825 the population of Potosi decreased in thousands of times - and fell to eight thousand people!

Potosi in former quality - the cities - mines - continues to exist and now. The exhausted field nevertheless contains small amounts of ore, and it provides employment to local miners. Of course, since former times, from the sixteenth century a lot of things changed. Another became technology - it is senseless to build it on quite expensive mercury nevertheless. There were perfect ways of purification of silver. Probably, the relation to human life became other.

As well as a century ago, miners go down in a face, supporting themselves by the same break. By the way, such use of leaves cooks in Bolivia (as well as in general in the Andes) is considered traditional - and the president Evo Morales supports legalization of such use (approving inadequacy of leaves cooks and cocaine). As if life in the conditions of highlands without leaves cooks is inconceivable (and Potosi, I will note, the city very mountainous - more than four thousand meters above sea level).

And still Potosi exists as the center of tourism now. Nearly five hundred years live the city. The value of Potosi for a world civilization was recognized in 1987 when this city was included in the list of the World heritage of UNESCO.

Attract tourists and actually ancient monuments, and tourist`s product exoticism. There are people ready to be influenced by delights of mining work. Here - the photodiary of one of travelers. Among other things on me the special impression was made by the photo of miners - a lump cooks behind a cheek, in hands bags of leaves.

And here is how one of tourists describes excursion in mine:

I got to mines thanks to excursion which became the last years very popular in Potosi. Groups of 10 - 15 people bring to the mountain. Within 3 - 4 hours show all stages of production, carry out to mine, sometimes even on the lowest level. Up to the end not all reach. To someone it becomes stuffy, to someone it is terrible... I went in the tail. Only it was built in a rhythm of the boots champing forward as the stream of air and sand shot at a face to me with a roar - broke through the pipe supplying mine with air. I hardly - hardly managed to hide the face in a hand. All head and a mouth in dust, very much shchipt a hand, I see nothing, I breathe which - as. The main thing, I in a second realized, we go the same as they now - to uncertainty, and nobody is insured from anything. To me poured over a hand alcohol - it here in the course... I recovered in the tiny museum which is located directly in mine. Just from there already some decided to come back to a surface. I gathered and decided that I will reach the end... .

Tourists note strange impression which is made on them by visit of Potosi. Everything works for this impression: both the general color of a landscape, and domination over the district of a red cone of the Rich mountain, and the collapsing architecture monuments, and reticence of locals, and a cult of miner`s god El - Tio, the Old man, the owner of the Rich mountain - severe, even cruel. Same cruel and severe - as life of the miner.

What it for the visiting traveler - an extreme? Can be... But, in my opinion, that`s it so history is humanized. Dry lines of textbooks are so filled with sense. Having tested though in small degree what was daily occurrence for other people, - whether we become more susceptible and are kinder?