Andes ice yields traces of silver mine operated by slaves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 February, 2015, 8:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 February, 2015, 10:26am

Evidence of slave mines found in Andes ice

After vanquishing the Inca empire, Spanish conquistadors forced natives to toil in silver mines in dire conditions that claimed many lives. Scientists have described evidence of this bitter chapter of South American history preserved deep in an ice cap in the Peruvian Andes in the form of residue from clouds of metallic dust spewed from the mines starting in the 16th century. The mountain-top mines of Potosi in Bolivia were the world's richest silver source. The pollutants spawned by the Spanish colonial-era silver operations from the 16th century through the 18th century consisted mostly of lead but also arsenic and others. Researchers called it the earliest evidence of large-scale, human-produced air pollution in South America. The pollutants were reminders of "the sad conditions and fate of tens of thousands locals exploited in the silver mining operations." Ohio State University scientist Paolo Gabrielli said. Reuters


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