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Latin American Studies Mining
by
Kendall Brown

Introduction

In many ways the story of Latin America, or at least the history of several countries in the region, has also been the history of mining. Spaniards found a little gold in the Caribbean but in Mexico and the Andes discovered more gold and incredibly rich silver lodes. Many of these had already been worked by the indigenous population before 1492, particularly the Andean natives, who had the most advanced pre-Columbian mining and metallurgy. During colonial times, Peru (including what would also become modern Bolivia) and Mexico were the main Spanish American mining centers, which yielded far more silver than gold. They used some slaves but primarily Indian labor to work the mines. New Granada, especially what became Colombia, was rich in gold rather than silver. The other great colonial mining region lay in Portuguese Brazil, where in the 1690s explorers found gold and three decades later diamonds. In the first quarter of the 19th century, Latin America gained its political independence, but mining remained central to life in the old mining colonies. Nonetheless, several important changes took place during the 1800s. For the first time Chile became a significant mining region, but its output consisted of copper and nitrates. Chile’s comparatively stable political conditions and liberal mining policies attracted foreign investment. The older mining regions (Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia) had more difficulty adapting to independence, in part because they remained too tied to their colonial mining laws and policies but lacked the resources to subsidize the industry as Spain had done. Besides gold and silver, other minerals became important. In the early 1900s, for example, Bolivia became one of the world’s leading tin producers, responding to international demand for tinned goods. Although it had another gold rush in the 1980s, Brazilian mining focused on industrial metals, such as iron (Brazil has the world’s largest iron reserves). By the late 20th century, Latin Americans were also questioning the benefits of the mining industry to national development and the well-being of the populace. It seemed that mining made corporations and owners rich, at the expense of workers who often toiled for a pittance in dangerously unhealthy conditions. Cries also rose regarding the environmental damage caused by mining. Thus, Latin American mining is a subject with a long chronology and many aspects. The topic’s potential bibliography is immense. What follows are some of the nuggets from that bibliography.

General Overviews

Given the tremendous size of the subject and its chronological length, Latin American mining still awaits its first satisfactory historical summary. Prieto 1973 self-consciously attempts the task but contains very little about the national period and omits important aspects of colonial mining. A very brief overview is Tenenbaum 1996. For colonial Spanish America, the best synthesis is Bakewell 1984, which has superseded Brading and Cross 1972, although it does not entirely replace their article, which can still be profitably consulted. Bargalló 1955 deserves special mention for its broad coverage of colonial mining and especially because of its valuable insights into colonial metallurgical technology, much of which prevailed in the national period until nearly 1900. Garner 1988 is a superb analysis of the long-term trends and production cycles for colonial silver output.

  • Bakewell, Peter. “Mining in Colonial Spanish America.” In The Cambridge History of Latin America. Vol. 2, Colonial Latin America. Edited by Leslie Bethell, 105–152. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

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    A superb overview of mining in the Spanish American colonies by a historian who has written perceptively on both Mexico and Peru, the two centers of Hispanic American mining activity. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Bargalló, Modesto. La minería y la metalurgía en la América española durante la época colonial; Con un apéndice sobre la industria del hierro en México desde la iniciación de la independencia hasta el presente. Sección de Obras de Economía. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1955.

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    In Spanish by a professor of chemistry. Although most valuable for its sections on refining techniques, it contains other important information on many aspects of the colonial mining industry.

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  • Brading, D. A., and Harry E. Cross. “Colonial Silver Mining: Mexico and Peru.” Hispanic American Historical Review 52.4 (1972): 545–579.

    DOI: 10.2307/2512781Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A brief but global look at silver production over the entire period. Discusses geology; mining techniques; refining methods; labor systems; and royal policies, including taxation, capital investment, and estimated production. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Garner, Richard L. “Long-Term Silver Mining Trends in Spanish America: A Comparative Analysis of Peru and Mexico.” American Historical Review 93.4 (October 1988): 898–935.

    DOI: 10.2307/1863529Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The best analysis of colonial silver output in the two principal mining regions of the Spanish empire. Garner quantitatively shows that the great boom in Mexican production had already begun by the early 1700s rather than the second half of the 18th century. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Barbara A. Tenenbaum “Mining.” In Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. Vol. 4. Edited by Barbara A. Tenenbaum, 58–65. New York: Charles Scribner’s Son, 1996.

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    Presents a brief but useful overview, with helpful bibliographic orientation. Contains three sections by different authors: colonial Brazil (Marshall C. Eakin); colonial Spanish America (Peter Bakewell and Kendall W. Brown); and modern mining (Eul-Soo Pang).

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  • Prieto, Carlos. Mining in the New World. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

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    One of a few authors to provide a historical synthesis, Prieto, a Mexican lawyer with close ties to mining, emphasizes the positive role the industry played in the development of Western civilization. It downplays the costs inflicted on workers and contains little on the national period. Lengthy bibliography.

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Reference Works

Several reference works about mining deserve mention as they cover long chronological periods or broad geographical areas. In the mid-1800s, Maffei and Rua Figueroa 1871–1873 compiled a tremendous bibliography of works related to mining and metallurgy in the Spanish-speaking world. That bibliography is also found in La minería hispana e iberoamericana 1970–1974, which in addition contains guides to mining resources in the Archive of the Indies, the great colonial repository in Seville, along with articles about many aspects of mining. Langue and Salazar-Soler 1993 is a dictionary of mining terminology, something crucial for research because mining vocabulary varies from region to region. TePaske 2010 can be consulted for information on the colonial treasury offices and mints that processed American gold and silver, as well as for production figures for each region.

  • Maffei, Eugenio, and Ramón Rua Figueroa. La minería hispana e iberoamericana: Contribución a su investigación histórica; Estudios, fuentes, bibliografía. 8 vols. León, Spain: Cátedra de San Isidro, 1970–1974.

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    These volumes contain a wealth of material helpful to research on colonial Spanish American mining. Volume 1 is an anthology of scholarly papers on mining history; vols. 1–3 contain a reprinted edition of Maffei and Figueroa 1871–1873; vol. 4 is a bibliography of works published between 1870 and 1969; vol. 5 lists materials related to mining from the Simancas archive; vol. 6 presents documents from the Guatemala section of the Archivo General de Indias; vol. 7 reprints chapters related to Iberian mining from St. Isidore’s Etymologies; and vol. 8 provides detailed entries on documents related to mining in the Lima section of the Archivo General de Indias. These volumes were published as a result of the Sixth International Conference on Mining, 1–7 June 1970, Madrid.

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  • Langue, Frédérique, and Carmen Salazar-Soler. Dictionnaire des termes miniers en usage en Amérique espagnole (XVIe–XIXe siècle)/Diccionario de terminus mineros para la América española (siglos xvi–xix). Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1993.

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    This dual-titled compendium contains definitions of many of the terms peculiar to Spanish American mining and to the workers in the industry. The authors include materials from Mexico and South America, as vocabulary often varies from region to region. The definitions are in Spanish.

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  • Maffei, Eugenio, and Ramón Rua Figueroa. Apuntes para una Biblioteca Española de libros, folletos y artículos, impresos y manuscritos, relatives al conocimiento y explotación de las riquezas minerales y a las ciencias auxiliares. 2 vols. Madrid: J. M. Lapuente, 1871–1873.

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    A rich bibliography listing printed and manuscript sources related to mining in Spain and Spanish America until the mid-19th century. A reprint is found in La minería hispana e iberoamericana, 1970–1974.

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  • TePaske, John J. A New World of Gold and Silver. Edited by Kendall W. Brown. Atlantic World 21. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004188914.i-342Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Painstakingly details the amount of gold and silver officially produced in Spanish and Portuguese America during the colonial period. Replete with tables and graphs, it provides annual output data based on the tax data for each regional treasury office that collected mining taxes and data on gold and silver coined by colonial mints. TePaske accepts Humboldt’s estimate that contraband probably inflated the official output by seventeen percent.

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Edited Collections

Students of Latin American mining have available to them several anthologies of articles that are broad in their scope, plus many others that are narrowly focused, some of which are listed later in this bibliography. In terms of broad coverage for colonial Spanish America, see Bakewell 1997 and Craig and West 1994. The latter volume also has a number of articles about pre-Columbian American mining and metallurgy. Most of the articles in Greaves and Culver 1985 deal with the national period, although its bibliography includes studies about the period before independence. Two other valuable anthologies are Busto Duthurburu 1999, which deals solely with Peru and its long history of mining; and Herrera Canales 1998, on 20th-century Mexican mining.

  • Bakewell, Peter, ed. Mines of Silver and Gold in the Americas. Expanding World 19. Brookfield, VT: Variorum, 1997.

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    A carefully chosen anthology of previously published articles selected by an eminent historian of Latin American mining. All focus on colonial Ibero-America, with the exception of the first, which examines how the gold trade that linked Portugal to West and East Africa increased Europeans’ appetite for mining once the Americas had been discovered.

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  • Busto Duthurburu, José Antonio del, ed. Historia de la minería en el Perú. Lima, Peru: Milpo, 1999.

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    An anthology in Spanish, published by the Peruvian mining company Milpo. Written by experts on Peru, the articles survey pre-Hispanic mining, the explosion of the industry during the 16th century and its continuation through the colonial period, the impact of independence on the industry, and its transition to the production of industrial metals in addition to gold and silver. The concluding chapter traces the history of Milpo.

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  • Craig, Alan K., and Robert C. West, eds., In Quest of Mineral Wealth: Aboriginal and Colonial Mining and Metallurgy in Spanish America. Geoscience and Man 33. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1994.

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    Compiled and edited by two historical geographers, this anthology contains five articles on aboriginal mining and metallurgy and fourteen related to colonial Spanish America.

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  • Greaves, Thomas C., and William Culver, eds. Miners and Mining in the Americas. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1985.

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    An anthology of articles in two parts: the first contains national and international studies related to Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Bolivia; and the second examines the human response to mining and includes works about Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Chile. Helpful bibliography of recent works.

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  • Herrera Canales, Inés, ed. La minería Mexicana: De la colonia al siglo XX. Lecturas de Historia Económica Mexicana. Mexico: Instituto Mora, 1998.

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    Ten articles on aspects of Mexican mining. Of particular interest are those that discuss the historians of Mexican mining, 1940–1990; mining and the introduction of electricity; and the revolution in minerals, when the industry expanded to exploit many nonprecious, industrial metals.

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Biographies

Few miners or mine workers have been the subject of book-length biographies, but four deserve attention. Bakewell 1988 does a commendable job of placing Antonio López de Quiroga in the context of silver mining and refining of 17th-century Potosí and explaining how even his vast wealth and innovative spirit could not make him socially acceptable to the crown. In terms of silver production, Mexico’s Count of Regla (see Couturier 2003) was similar to López de Quiroga; but Regla’s biographer, unlike Bakewell, could draw on her subject’s personal and family papers. Regla consequently comes alive. No Latin American mining entrepreneur gained greater global influence than did Simón Patiño, whose best biography is Geddes 1972. The fourth work is an autobiographical account of a 20th-century Bolivian tin miner, compiled through interviews and edited by Nash 1992. In addition, the “testimony” of Barrios de Chungara and Viezzer 1978 (cited under Gender), while not fully autobiographical, portrays the struggles of women in the Bolivian tin camps following the Revolution of 1972, the nationalization of the mines, and the subsequent military repression of the mine workers and their families.

  • Bakewell, Peter. Silver and Entrepreneurship in Seventeenth-Century Potosí: The Life and Times of Antonio López de Quiroga. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988.

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    Biography of the foremost silver refiner in 17th-century Potosí, who was also a merchant and would-be explorer of the Amazon wilderness. Although handicapped by the lack of López de Quiroga’s personal papers, Bakewell skillfully reveals how his subject used technological innovations (adits to drain rich, flooded mines; and blasting powder). One of the best biographies of a colonial mine operator and refiner.

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  • Couturier, Edith Boorstein. The Silver King: The Remarkable Life of the Count of Regla in Colonial Mexico. Diálogos. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

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    The best biography of a colonial mining entrepreneur. Although Ladd 1988 (cited under Mining Labor) gives more information about that aspect of Romero de Terreros’s career, Couturier’s study provides a much broader portrait of her subject as merchant, giant of the mining industry, philanthropist, and family man.

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  • Geddes, Charles F. Patiño: The Tin King. London: Robert Hale, 1972.

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    Written by a long-time secretary who had access to company and family papers, this is one of two book-length biographies about Simón I. Patiño, the Bolivian tin producer who ranked among the richest men in the world. Sympathetic to Patiño but informative.

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  • Nash, June, ed. I Spent My Life in the Mines: The Story of Juan Rojas, Bolivian Tin Miner. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

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    Over two decades, American anthropologist June Nash conducted lengthy interviews with a miner whom she called Juan Rojas and then organized them to create an autobiography of his work in the Bolivian tin mines and his experiences during the Chaco war and the revolution of 1952. Originally published in Spanish as He agotado mi vida en las minas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992).

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Pre-Columbian America

In the Andes indigenous peoples were already exploiting gold, silver, and several nonprecious metals before Europeans arrived. The best survey of their metallurgy and mining is Petersen 2010 (first published in 1970), which can be supplemented by Oehm 1984. Iwasaki Cauti 1984 offers valuable insights into the cultural meaning of metals for Andeans. For Meso-America, turquoise was a valuable luxury good and extracted in New Mexico for commerce along southern trade routes (see Northrop 1975 and Harbottle and Weigand 1992). Metallurgy was later to develop in Meso-America than in the Andes. A good introduction is León-Portilla 1978, although it is based chiefly on information found in codices rather than on scientific methods that characterize several of the articles found in Craig and West 1994, cited under Edited Collections.

  • Harbottle, Garman, and Phil C. Weigand. “Turquoise in Pre-Columbian America.” Scientific American 266.2 (February 1992): 78–84.

    DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican0292-78Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Besides jade, the indigenous peoples of central Mexico prized turquoise. This article describes the sites from which it was obtained, particularly around Cerrillos in New Mexico, and the commercial trails via which it arrived in Meso-America.

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  • Iwasaki Cauti, Fernando A. “Simbolismos religiosos en la minería y metalurgía prehispánicas.” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 41 (1984): 93–141.

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    The Andean cultures were the first New World peoples to develop significant mining and metallurgical activities, as early as 2000 BCE. These were, of course, economic in nature, requiring the employment of thousands of workers, but they also had great religious importance. Ores and metals were considered sacred, fruits of the earth mother Pachamama. Deals solely with Andean mining and metallurgy.

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  • León-Portilla, Miguel. “Minería y metalurgía en el México antiguo” In La minería en México: Estudios sobre su desarrollo histórico. Edited by Miguel León-Portilla, 5–36. Mexico City, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1978.

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    Good introduction to pre-Hispanic Mexican mining and metalworking. Useful but out-of-date bibliography. Paper presented at one of a series of conferences sponsored by the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas de la Universidad Nacional and by the Sociedad de Ex-alumnos de la Facultad de Ingeniería, held in February and March 1977.

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  • Northrop, Stuart A. Turquois and Spanish Mines in New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975.

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    Discusses pre-Hispanic exploitation of turquoise in New Mexico and location of the mines.

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  • Oehm, Victor P. Investigaciones sobre minería y metalurgía en el Perú prehispánico: Una Visíon Crítica Actualizada. Bonner Amerikanistische Studien 12. Bonn, Germany: Seminar für Völkerkunde, Universität Bonn, 1984.

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    Inventories pre-Columbian mining sites in Peru, tools and extractive methods, milling methods, smelting ovens, and metals and alloys produced. Useful bibliography.

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  • Petersen, G. Georg. Mining and Metallurgy in Ancient Peru. Translated by William E. Brooks. Special Paper 467. Boulder, CO: Geological Society of America, 2010.

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    A German geologist resident in Peru, Petersen wrote the most thorough, detailed compilation of information about Andean use of metals, mining techniques, refining methods, and alloys. He surveys information from Colombia in the north to Chile. Originally published as Minería y metalurgía en el antiguo Perú (1970).

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Colonial Era

The history of colonial Latin American mining has drawn substantial historical analysis and rich primary documentation survives for many aspects of the industry. Given mining’s importance to the well being of the Spanish monarchy, the government required frequent reports from colonial officials about conditions at the Mexican and Andean mines, and some of those have been published. As might be expected, historians have studied the major mining centers of Mexico and Peru, the foremost Spanish American mining colonies. The widely used amalgamation process of silver refining required mercury, and its production and distribution are the subject of several studies. Although Brazil’s 18th-century gold boom transformed that Portuguese colony, it is less thoroughly studied than silver mining in Spanish America, perhaps due in part to the relative scarcity of Brazilian documentation, compared to that of Mexico or Peru. Mining in New Granada focused on gold, but its mining was often small-scale and poorly documented. Chile’s mining industry flourished only after independence, but its early miners have received some scholarly attention.

Primary Sources

Of published primary sources about colonial mining, several stand out for the quality of their analysis and the depth of their coverage. Discovered in 1545 and worked since then, Potosí was the most famous colonial silver mining district. Capoche 1959 describes it in the 16th century, Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela wrote his chronicle and analysis (Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela 1965) in the 1730s, and Cañete y Domínguez 1952 talks with more pessimism about conditions at the end of the 18th century, when Potosí was in clear decline. For Mexico the learned commentary by Gamboa 1830 about the industry and laws is essential reading. Antonil 1967 recounts the tumult that accompanied the early gold rush in Brazil and laments many of its repercussions. Very useful are the reports left by viceroys at the completion of their service, many of which are edited and transcribed by Hanke 1976–1980 for the Habsburg period (researchers can also consult the published reports of 18th-century viceroys). The reports typically contain extensive and informative comments about the condition of mining. Two central European mining experts also recorded their impressions of Latin American mining at the end of the colonial era: Humboldt 1966, written by the great German polymath, gives an invaluable analysis of Mexican mining and crucial observations about Peru also; and Eschwege 1979 provides a survey of Brazilian mining and its potential.

  • Antonil, André João. Cultura e Opulência do Brasil. Colecão Roteriro do Brasil 2. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1967.

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    A Portuguese text written by an Italian-born Jesuit resident in Brazil who took the pseudonym Antonil, it discusses the impact of the discovery of gold in the 1690s on the colonial Brazilian economy. It particularly emphasizes the negative impact of gold mining on the sugar plantations, but vividly portrays life in the mining districts.

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  • Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela, Bartolomé. Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosí. 3 vols. Edited by Lewis Hanke and Gunnar Mendoza. Brown University Bicentennial Publications. Providence, RI: Brown University Press, 1965.

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    A rich account of life in early-18th-century Potosí and its previous history, written by a resident of the city. Arzáns, who died in 1738, had access to manuscripts and other records to supplement his personal observations.

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  • Cañete y Domínguez, Pedro Vicente. Guía histórica, geográfica, física, política, civil y legal del Gobierno e Intendencia de la Provincia de Potosí. Colección de la Cultura Boliviana 1. Potosí, Bolivia: Editorial Potosí, 1952.

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    Perceptive, detailed description of mining, the mita (system of rotating forced labor), and government policies by a late colonial official at Potosí.

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  • Capoche, Luis. Relación general de la villa imperial de Potosí. Edited by Luis Hanke. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles 122. Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1959.

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    Written by a late-16th-century mine operator and silver refiner during the heyday of production at Potosí, this Spanish-language account describes the mines, the condition of Indian workers, and the great city that sprang up as a result of the flood of silver that Potosí yielded.

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  • Eschwege, W. L. von. Pluto Brasiliensis. 2 vols. Translated by Domício de Figueiredo Murta. Coleção Reconquista do Brasil 58–59. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora da Universidade de São Paulo, 1979.

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    Hired as a mining engineer by the Portuguese crown, Eschwege accompanied the Portuguese court to Brazil in 1808, where he studied the decadent mining industry and tried to revive it. Pluto Brasiliensis surveys the history of gold, diamond, and iron mining and makes recommendations for their reform.

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  • Gamboa, Francisco Javier de. Commentaries on the Mining Ordinances of Spain: Dedicated to His Catholic Majesty, Charles III. 2 vols. Translated by Richard Heathfield. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green, 1830.

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    The foremost 18th-century analysis of colonial mining, derived from the author’s experiences in Mexico. Contains information about technology, laws, and needed reforms. The original Spanish version is Comentarios a las ordenanzas de minas dedicados al cathólico rey, nuesto señor Carlos III. (Madrid: J. Ibarra, 1761).

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  • Hanke, Lewis, ed. Los virreyes españoles en América durante el gobierno de la Casa de Austria. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles 273–274. Madrid: Atlas, 1976–1980.

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    Viceroys left detailed reports for their successors of conditions, and most contain extensive sections on the mining industry. Hanke’s editions, the best available, do not contain those of the 18th century, which are available elsewhere. Volumes 273–274 cover Mexico. Also see Vols. 280–286 on Peru.

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  • Humboldt, Alexander von. Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain. 4 vols. New York: AMS, 1966.

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    Facsimile reprint of the 1811 (London, 2 volumes, translated by John Black) English translation of Essai politique sur le royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne. German polymath Humboldt toured parts of Spanish America in the late 18th century and wrote detailed analyses of important mining districts and informed estimates of production.

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Mexico

New Spain was justifiably famed for its colonial mining industry, which is the subject of a rich historiography. Two of the most important works examine specific mining districts and also present rich insights about the industry generally: Bakewell 1971 for Zacatecas prior to 1700; and Brading 1971 for Guanajuato during the 18th to early 19th century. One of the most important technological developments in colonial mining occurred in Mexico when Bartolomé de Medina invented the patio process of refining silver ores by amalgamation, which is discussed by Probert 1969. TePaske and Klein 1981 use mining output data calculated from tax records to show that the industry did not suffer a prolonged depression in the 17th century. Salazar González 2000 analyzes for San Luis Potosí many of the economic activities besides ore extraction and refining that were essential to a mining operation. Bourbon attempts to reform and modernize the industry have drawn attention, including that of Howe 1949 on the Mining Guild and Tribunal; and that of Flores Clair 2001, on the mining bank to extend credit for mining operations. Some scholars have questioned whether the great Mexican silver boom of the late 18th century truly represented a healthy industry and viceregal economy. In that regard, Garner 1993 raises doubts about the long-term potential of the colonial mining system and points to the true mining prosperity of Mexico in the early 1700s. Coatsworth 1986 contends that Mexican mining’s late colonial boom was nothing more than an illusion; that the industry was propped up by government subsidies and privileges that also distorted the broader economy.

  • Bakewell, Peter. Silver Mining and Society in Colonial Mexico: Zacatecas, 1546–1700. Cambridge Latin American Studies 15. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511572692Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An essential book by a leading historian of colonial mining. It traces the development of capitalist mining in northern New Spain, the use of free rather than forced labor, and the prominent role of the Zacatecas mines in stimulating the economy of New Spain despite the demographic collapse that afflicted much of the viceroyalty.

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  • Brading, D. A. Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810. Cambridge Latin American studies 10. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

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    This classic on the history of 18th-century Mexico skillfully places mining within the context of imperial attempts to reform the viceroyalty. Perceptive descriptions of how mining was organized and its links to the merchant community, which constituted an important source of capital for the industry.

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  • Coatsworth, John H. “The Mexican Mining Industry in the Eighteenth Century.” In The Economies of Mexico and Peru during the Late Colonial Period, 1760–1810. Edited by Nils Jacobsen and Hans-Jürgen Puhle, 26–45. Bibliotheca Ibero-Americana 34. Berlin: Colloquium- Verlag, 1986.

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    Rejects the assumption that late colonial Mexican silver mining collapsed during the independence and early national periods due to the destruction caused during the wars. Asserts instead that it was a terminally ill industry in the late 1700s, sustained by economically misguided subsidies and incentives.

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  • Flores Clair, Eduardo. El Banco de Avío Minero novohispano: Crédito, finanzas y deudores. Colección Cientifíca, Serie Historia 134. Mexico City, Mexico: Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia, 2001.

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    Fills an important gap on capitalization of mining. Few miners had sufficient capital to finance operations, but in the 18th century the mining guild, Mexican merchants, and the crown combined forces to establish a bank for the purpose of extending credit to the mining industry.

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  • Garner, Richard L., with Spiro E. Stefanou. Economic Growth and Change in Bourbon Mexico. University of Florida monographs, Social Sciences 80. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993.

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    Sophisticated analysis of the 18th-century Mexican economy, which devotes considerable attention to mining as one of the most productive forces within that economy. Questions the long-term prospects for the industry.

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  • Howe, Walter. The Mining Guild of New Spain and Its Tribunal General, 1770–1821. Harvard Historical Studies 56. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949.

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    The guild was created at the zenith of the Bourbon reforms in an attempt to promote silver and gold output. One goal, not achieved, was to stimulate capitalization of the industry. The guild did, however, issue the 1783 mining ordinances, which had lasting impact in Spanish America, and helped sponsor the College of Mines, founded in 1792.

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  • Probert, Alan. “Bartolomé de Medina: The Patio Process and the Sixteenth Century Silver Crisis.” Journal of the West 8.1 (1969): 90–124.

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    An accessible introductory sketch of Medina’s historic contribution to New World silver production—his development of amalgamation for silver refining, which became the most common refining technique throughout the Spanish colonies.

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  • Salazar González, Guadalupe. Las haciendas en el siglo XVII en la región minera de San Luis Potosí: Su espacio, forma, función, material, significado y la estructuración regional. San Luis Potosí, Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Facultad del Hábitat, 2000.

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    An innovative and multidisciplinary study of Mexican silver mining. Considers the mines and refineries themselves but also their links to agricultural and pastoral estates, charcoal producers, architectural styles, and environmental impact.

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  • TePaske, John J., and Herbert S. Klein. “The Seventeenth-Century Crisis in New Spain: Myth or Reality?” Past & Present 90.1 (February 1981): 116–135.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/90.1.116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on mining output figures derived from Mexican tax records, challenges the assertion that Mexico was mired in a century-long depression in the1600s. Available online to subscribers.

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Central America

Mining played a minor economic role in the life of colonial Central America. Spanish conquistadors plundered gold and silver objects that had been accumulated by the Indians and worked some mines, as described by MacLeod 1973 and Fernández Hernández 1992. The Spanish government irregularly provided small amounts of mercury for silver refining, a sign of the region’s relative insignificance in terms of mining. Some historians have touched on regional mining because of their interest in indigenous and slave labor; see, for instance, Newson 1982.

  • Fernández Hernández, Bernabé. “La crisis de la minería de Hondura a fines de la época colonial.” Mesoamérica 24 (December 1992): 365–383.

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    Despite attempts by Spanish intendants to reform it, mining in Honduras declined in the late Bourbon period because of the lack of mercury, which was used to refine silver ores, and the scarcity of coerced indigenous labor, plus the inability of miners to attract reliable free workers.

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  • MacLeod, Murdo J. Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History, 1520–1720. Campus 119. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

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    Surveys the contribution of mining to economic life in Central America.

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  • Newson, Linda. “Labour in the Colonial Mining Industry of Honduras.” Americas 39.2 (October 1982): 185–203.

    DOI: 10.2307/981334Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the changes in labor over the colonial period; for example, most mine work was done by black slaves in the 1500s, by coerced indigenous workers in the 1600s, and increasingly by free wage laborers in the 1700s. Available online to subscribers.

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New Granada

New Granada, particularly the region that became Colombia, was the foremost gold-mining and -producing colony in Spanish America. Consequently, most studies of the region’s mining relate to the gold fields. The classic work is West 1952, which offers many geographic and technological insights as well as a historical overview. Three regions have drawn studies: Zaruma (Lane 2004), Popayán (Díaz de Zuluaga 1994), and the Chocó (Sharp 1976). Despite its title, the latter contains many valuable insights about the vicissitudes of gold mining. Caycedo 1981 is a work on Bourbon attempts to reform and modernize mining in New Granada; it discusses the activities of Juan José d’Elhuyar, a European-trained mining expert dispatched by the crown to South America.

  • Caycedo, Bernardo J. The Life and Times of Juan José D’Elhuyar: Discoverer of Tungsten, in 18th-Century New Granada. Translated by J. A. Schufle. Lawrence, KS: Coronado, 1981.

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    Biography of one of the European mining experts sent by the Spanish crown in the late 18th century to raise the technological level of colonial mining and help organize it. Focuses on his years in New Granada. Translation of D’Elhuyar y el siglo XVIII neogranadino (Bogota, Colombia: Editorial Kelly, 1971).

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  • Díaz de Zuluaga, Zamira. Oro, sociedad y economía: El sistema colonial en la Gobernación de Popayán, 1533–1733. Historia Colombiana. Santa Fé de Bogotá, Colombia: Banco de la República, 1994.

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    Reconstructs gold production from government records of smelting houses and treasury offices. Contends that mining played a significant role in the decline of indigenous population in the region of Popayán.

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  • Lane, Kris. “Unlucky Strike: Gold and Labor in Zaruma, Ecuador, 1699–1820.” Colonial Latin American Review 13.1 (2004): 65–84.

    DOI: 10.1080/1060916042000210828Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Gold was mined at Zaruma in southern Ecuador as early as the mid-16th century. Zaruma continued to be worked off and on throughout colonial times, but never flourished due to a scarcity of labor.

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  • Sharp, William Frederick. Slavery on the Spanish Frontier: The Colombian Chocó, 1680–1810. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.

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    During the 18th century, use of black slaves in Colombian gold mining expanded. Provides a sophisticated analysis of the profitability of such labor, concluding that as the slave population grew, profits probably declined.

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  • West, Robert C. Colonial Placer Mining in Colombia. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1952.

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    A groundbreaking work on mining in New Granada, by a historical geographer and one of the scholars best prepared to analyze the technical aspects of the subject. Deals with geography and techniques of gold extraction, labor (particularly slave), and the commercial networks that served the mining settlements.

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Peru

Andean mining, which played a vital role in the Spanish imperial economy, has attracted a large amount of scholarly attention. The two most important mining districts were Potosí, the great silver producer; and Huancavelica, which provided most of the mercury used in Peru to refine silver ores. On Potosí, see Tandeter 1993, along with the relevant works in the section on Mining Labor in this bibliography. Fisher 1977 is the best assessment of late colonial Peruvian mining and also deals with Bourbon attempts to stimulate and modernize the industry. Buechler 1981 and Deustua Pimentel 1957 examine specific aspects of the mining-related Bourbon reforms. Molina Martínez 1995 discusses Huancavelica in the mid-18th century, when the crown attempted to curb corruption at the decadent mercury mines. In terms of the overall importance of mining to the Peruvian economy, Sempat Assadourian 1982 empirically tests his contention that Potosí carried more weight than did Peru’s links to the Atlantic economy. Fisher 1986 sees the late colonial mining expansion in Lower Peru as healthy for the Andes because it stimulated other economic sectors (contrast with Coatsworth 1986, cited under Mexico)

  • Buechler, Rose Marie. The Mining Society of Potosí, 1776–1810. Dellplain Latin American Studies 7. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microforms International, 1981.

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    Discusses the impact of the Bourbon reforms at Potosí, which included the Bank of San Carlos, to help capitalize operations; the Mining Society, to disseminate technology and implement a new mining code; and the Nordenflicht mission of European mining experts, to raise the technical competence of refiners. Published by the university on behalf of the Department of Geography, University of Syracuse, Syracuse, New York.

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  • Deustua Pimentel, Carlos. “La expedición mineralogista del baron Nordenflicht al Perú.” Mercurio Peruano 38 (1957): 510–519.

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    A brief overview of Nordeflicht’s sojourn in Peru, where he had been sent by the crown to introduce the Born system of amalgamation and reform the mining industry. The article omits much important information.

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  • Fisher, John R. Silver Mines and Silver Miners in Colonial Peru, 1776–1824. Liverpool, UK: Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool, 1977.

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    The best summary of mining in the viceroyalty of Peru, following its dismemberment with the creation of the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776. Assesses the impact on mining of imperial reforms such as the creation of the mining guild, the mining tribunal, and the crown’s sponsorship of technological missions staffed by European experts. Includes quantitative data on production.

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  • Fisher, John R. “Mining and the Peruvian Economy in the Late Colonial Period.” In The Economies of Mexico and Peru during the Late Colonial Period, 1760–1810. Edited by Nils Jacobsen and Hans-Jürgen Puhle, 46–60. Berlin: Colloquium-Verlag, 1986.

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    Argues that the late colonial mining expansion in the viceroyalty of Peru represented real growth and was a positive development for the viceregal economy, although Andean silver mining had probably reached the limits of its growth possible until new technology could be brought in.

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  • Molina Martínez, Miguel. Antonio de Ulloa en Huancavelica. Biblioteca “Chronica Nova” de Estudios Históricos. Granada, Spain: University of Granada Press, 1995.

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    The most thorough analysis of Ulloa’s administration at the mercury mines, 1758–1764. One of the chief figures of the Spanish enlightenment, Ulloa was unable to reverse the mines’ decline nor eliminate the guild’s corruption.

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  • Sempat Assadourian, Carlos. El sistema de la economía colonial: Mercado interno, regiones y espacio económico. Serie Estudios Historicos 10. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1982.

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    A seminal work, combining theory and empirical research, by one of the most influential historians of the colonial economy. Sees the mines of Potosí as integrating the South American economy and rejects simplistic Marxist and Dependency interpretations.

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  • Tandeter, Enrique. Coercion & Market: Silver Mining in Colonial Potosí, 1692–1826. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993.

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    The foremost study of 18th-century Potosí. Tandeter shows that as ore quality declined, mine operators and refiners extorted ever more labor from their mita (forced) workers. Yet as much as half the silver produced at Potosí in the 1700s came from indigenous artisanal output rather than the large Spanish refineries.

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Chile

Colonial Chilean mining gave little indication of how important the industry would become following independence. Pederson 1966 discusses gold mining in the Norte Chico, and Carmagnani 1963 offers an innovative study of the cost of living confronted by wage workers in the gold fields. Méndez Beltrán 1979 and Figueroa Quinteros 1981 both assess the impact of the Bourbon reforms on mining at the end of the colonial period. Also see Brown and Craig 1994 on Huantajaya mines in Craig and West 1994, cited under Edited Collections.

  • Brown, Kendall W., and Alan K. Craig. “Silver Mining at Huantajaya, Viceroyalty of Peru.” In In Quest of Mineral Wealth. Edited by Allan K. Craig and Robert C. West, 303–328. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1994.

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    Located in the Tarapacá region of Chile’s Atacama Desert, the Huantajaya mines were worked in pre-Hispanic times and then intermittently during colonial times. Huantajaya was famous for the large amounts of nearly pure silver extracted there. The extremely arid environment made ore processing very difficult there.

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  • Carmagnani, Marcello. El salariado minero en Chile colonial: Su desarrollo en una sociedad provincial: El Norte Chico, 1690–1800. Santiago: Universidad de Chile, 1963.

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    A groundbreaking study of the wages and cost of living of gold-mine workers in 18th-century Chile—regions of Atacama and Coquimbo.

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  • Figueroa Quinteros, María Angélica. “Bancos de fomento minero en Chile durante el siglo XVIII.” Revista Chileña de Historia y Geografía 149 (1981): 43–66.

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    In an effort to stimulate mining, the Bourbon reformers encouraged establishment of mining banks in the colonies, with the purpose of capitalizing work at the mines. In Chile these efforts bore little fruit, in part because the banks themselves lacked sufficient funding and suffered mismanagement.

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  • Méndez Beltrán, Luz María. Instituciones y problemas de la minería en Chile, 1787–1826. Santiago: Universidad de Chile, 1979.

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    Analyzes the state of Chilean mining in the late colonial period and the impact of the Bourbon reforms on the industry. Includes reference to the introduction of new techniques, and the establishment of banks to provide credit to and buy silver from the miners.

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  • Pederson, Leland R.. The Mining Industry of the Norte Chico, Chile. Studies in Geography 11. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University, Department of Geography, 1966.

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    By a historical geographer. Examines technology, geology, economics, and ecology for metal mining: gold, during the colonial era; silver and copper in the 19th century; and porphyry copper and iron during the 1900s. Comparatively little on labor and politics.

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Brazil

Unlike Spanish America, where the native population revealed most of the silver and gold deposits to the Spaniards, Brazilian Indians had no tradition of mining and metallurgy. The Portuguese consequently had to make their own mineral discoveries. For many years bandeirantes (explorers and frontiersmen) from the region of São Paulo roamed the Brazilian interior looking for gold and silver and finally made a great discovery in the early 1690s in what became Minas Gerais. Boxer 1962 and Cardozo 1946 relate the story of the ensuing gold rush, the crown’s struggle to control the mining districts, and the consequences for the sugar economy. Slaves did the mine work, and several studies of Brazilian gold mining concentrate on their labor and influence on the society that developed in the gold provinces (Russell-Wood 1977 and Higgins 1999). Some slaves worked in supervised gangs, whereas others had more autonomy to prospect as long as they earned sufficient amounts to pay their owners. These were garimpeiros, artisanal miners, which also included workers from towns of runaway slaves (see Machado Filho 1985). Diamonds were also found in Minas Gerais, and Santos 1976 chronicles their discovery and means used to mine them. Mawe 1812 describes conditions in the gold and diamond fields on the eve of Brazilian independence.

  • Boxer, C. R. The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695–1750: Growing Pains of a Colonial Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962.

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    Much more than a book about mining, this book describes the panorama of Brazil as the colony was transformed by the gold and diamonds discovered in the interior. A pleasure to read and very accessible, by one of the foremost scholars of the Portuguese empire.

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  • Cardozo, Manoel. “The Brazilian Gold Rush.” Americas 3.2 (October 1946): 137–160.

    DOI: 10.2307/978703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Less concerned with describing mining conditions and techniques than with discussing the impact of the gold boom on Brazil. Discusses immigration, both slave and free, to the gold fields; consumption, both of basic necessities and luxury goods; and the detrimental impact of mining on other economic sectors, such as the sugar industry, where planters experienced difficulties in competing with miners for slaves.

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  • Higgins, Kathleen J. “Licentious Liberty” in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Sabará, Minas Gerais. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

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    Demonstrates the differences between the slavery in Brazil’s gold districts and that in the plantation regions. In Sabará, Minas Gerais, the mining economy afforded slaves more autonomy. Male slaves were concentrated in mining and females in commercial activities.

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  • Machado Filho, Aires da Mata. O Negro e o Garimpo em Minas Gerais. Coleção Reconquista do Brasil 88. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editora Itatiaia, 1985.

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    Africans and Afro-Brazilians played a critical role in the gold fields, both as slaves and as free prospectors. Some clandestine prospectors also came from quilombos, African-style villages of runaway slaves. First published in 1943.

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  • Mawe, John. Travels in the Interior of Brazil, Particularly in the Gold and Diamond Districts of That Country. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1812.

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    Perceptive description of the methods used to mine gold and diamonds in Minas Gerais, the first by a foreigner.

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  • Russell-Wood, A. J. R. “Technology and Society: The Impact of Gold Mining on the Institution of Slavery in Portuguese America.” Special Issue: Papers Presented at the Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting of the Economic History Association. Edited by John P. McKay and Paul J. Uselding. Journal of Economic History 37.1 (1977): 59–83.

    DOI: 10.1017/S002205070009673XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The gold mining boom in what became Brazil’s Minas Gerais relied on slave labor, as did other sectors of the colonial Brazilian economy. Yet the slavery in the gold fields was much different from that in the old sugar-producing regions. In Minas slaves were more able to accumulate gold to manumit themselves, enjoyed surprising freedom, endured poorer health conditions, and were discouraged from marrying. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Santos, Joaquim Felício dos. Memórias do Distrito Diamantino da Comarca do Serro Frio (Província de Minas Gerais). 4th ed. Reconquista do Brasil 26. São Paulo, Brazil: Universidade de São Paulo, 1976.

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    A 19th-century history of the discovery of diamonds in the early 1700s and their mining. Lots of useful information.

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Mercury

Colonial silver refiners processed much of their ore by amalgamation and consequently required great quantities of mercury or quicksilver. Huancavelica (in Peru) had the only American mercury mines of any consequence worked during the colonial period. Their history is recounted by two classic works: Lohmann Villena 1949 on the period to 1700, and Whitaker 1941 for the 18th century. The monarchy also shipped quicksilver from its mines at Almadén (Spain) for distribution and sale to American refiners. See Matilla Tascón 1958 and Matilla Tascón 1987 on the history of the Almadén mines. The transport and distribution of mercury from Europe to Mexico, and occasionally to Peru, is the subject of several studies: Lang 1977, for the Habsburg era; Heredia Herrera 1978, for the first half of the Bourbon period, when administration of the monopoly received major reform; and Brown 1994, which considers mercury consumption in both New Spain and the Andes during the Bourbon period. Both Brown 1994 and Dobado González 2002 assess the effectiveness of the mercury monopoly and the Bourbon reforms of it.

  • Brown, Kendall W. “The Spanish Imperial Mercury Trade and the American Mining Expansion under the Bourbon Monarchy.” In The Political Economy of Spanish America in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1850. Edited by Kenneth J. Andrien and Lyman L. Johnson, 137–168. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

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    The great upsurge in silver production in 18th-century Spanish America resulted in part from larger and cheaper supplies of mercury, which were essential to refining silver by amalgamation. Mexican refiners benefited from access to abundant mercury from Almadén (Spain), whereas Peru suffered from its partial dependence on moribund Huancavelica as its supplier. Contains quantitative data on mercury shipments.

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  • Contreras, Carlos. La ciudad del mercurio: Huancavelica, 1570–1700. Colección Mínima 13. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1982.

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    Analyzes the growth of the mining town and its hinterland. By the mid-1600s, the traditional elite, whose status derived from their membership in the guild that operated the mercury mines, were being displaced by merchants, who did not depend on government subsidies and credits, as the miners did.

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  • Dobado González, Rafael. “El monopolio estatal del mercurio en Nueva España durante el siglo XVIII.” Hispanic American Historical Review 82.4 (November 2002): 685–718.

    DOI: 10.1215/00182168-82-4-685Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes the effectiveness of the government’s use of its monopoly over the distribution and sale of mercury to silver refiners as a means of developing the colonial Mexican economy through mining-led growth. Concludes that it was moderately effective. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Heredia Herrera, Antonia. La renta del azogue en Nueva España: 1709–1751. Publicaciones de la Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de la Universidad de Sevilla 250. Seville, Spain: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1978.

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    Expansion of silver production in 18th-century Mexico required greater, more secure supplies of imported mercury, particularly from the royal mines at Almadén in Spain. The new Bourbon monarchy also established an office in Mexico to supervise the transportation and distribution of the quicksilver. The book is also valuable for its tables of data showing the amount of mercury sent to each mining district.

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  • Lang, M. F. El monopolio estatal del mercurio en el México colonial (1550–1710). Translated by Roberto Gómez Ciriza. Sección de Obras de Economía. Mexico City, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1977.

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    Discusses the supply and distribution of mercury to Mexican silver refiners. Describes the principal sources of mercury, its transportation to Mexico, and the methods of distributing it to the refiners. Provides quantitative data.

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  • Lohmann Villena, Guillermo. Las minas de Huancavelica en los siglos XVI y XVII. Publicaciones de la Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos de Sevilla 50. Seville, Spain: Escuela de Estudios Hispanoamericanos, 1949.

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    A classic in Spanish by an eminent Peruvian historian, this book analyzes the vicissitudes of the Huancavelica mercury mines from their discovery by Spaniards in the 1560s through the end of the Habsburg dynasty in 1700. The use of amalgamation to refine silver ores made Huancavelica, the only significant colonial source of mercury, vital to the imperial economy.

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  • Matilla Tascón, Antonio. Historia de las minas de Almadén. Vol. 1, Desde la Época Romana hasta el Año 1645. Madrid: Gráficas Osca, 1958.

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    Based on papers generated by the administration of the Almadén mercury mines. Traces their history from Roman times to 1645. For Spanish American mining history, it provides vital data on the amount of mercury distributed to the colonial silver refiners.

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  • Matilla Tascón, Antonio. Historia de las minas de Almadén. Vol. 2, Desde 1646 a 1799. Madrid: Minas de Almadén y Arrayanes, 1987.

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    The best study of the Almadén mines, including their revival in the 1690s and their supply of the huge amount of mercury required by Spanish American refiners during the 18th century’s great age of silver. Supplies annual data on mercury distribution from Almadén to the American colonies.

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  • Whitaker, Arthur P. The Huancavelica Mercury Mine: A Contribution to the History of the Bourbon Renaissance in the Spanish Empire. Harvard Historical Monographs 16. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941.

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    During the 18th century, the new Bourbon dynasty tried to reform operations at Huancavelica to eliminate corruption and improve mercury output. Enlightened governor Antonio de Ulloa served several tumultuous years there around 1760 but failed to curb local venality. In the 1780s the top half of the Santa Barbara mine collapsed, and ore quality dropped, leaving Huancavelica moribund.

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Modern Latin America

There is no substantial survey of post-independence mining for all of Latin America, due in part to the fragmentation of Spain’s American colonies into many independent nations. More important, the fragmentation means that there no longer existed a unifying administrative bureaucracy that could provide documentation. Moreover, Brazil’s political tradition and Portuguese language have tended to divide it from the former Spanish colonies. That is evident in Contreras 1999, which provides a good introduction to recent works on mining in the major Spanish American nations, but contains nothing on Brazil. The anthology Hilson 2003 overcomes the divide by centering its attention on small-scale mining. Zapata 1980 is also thematically narrow, analyzing the conflict between mine labor and military dictatorship in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru.

  • Contreras, Carlos. “La minería hispanoamericana después de la independencia: Estudio comparativo de Bolivia, Chile, México y Perú.” In Dos décadas de investigación en historia económica comparada en América Latina: Homenage a Carlos Sempat Assadourian. Edited by Margarita Menegus Bornemann, 255–283. Mexico City, Mexico: El Colegio de México, Centro de Estudios Históricos, 1999.

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    Compares 19th-century silver mining in Chile, Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico and their challenges in overcoming the chaos and destruction of the wars of independence. Concludes that Chile achieved its comparative degree of success by liberalizing the trade of silver and reducing mining taxes. The other three nations retained more restrictive policies, which in many cases reflected their colonial heritage.

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  • Hilson, Gavin M., ed. The Socio-Economic Impacts of Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in Developing Countries. Exton, PA: A. A. Balkema, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1201/9780203971284Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Part 5 contains articles that discuss small-scale mining in Peru, Suriname, Ecuador, Brazil, and Chile. While such mining offers employment to individuals who otherwise might be unemployed, and the region has a rich history of prospecting and artisanal mining, it also poses problems. Production is often too small and resources too scarce to deal with unexpected problems, and small-scale mining also produces significant levels of pollution.

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  • Zapata, Francisco. “Mineros y militares en la coyuntura actual de Bolivia, Chile y Perú (1976–1978).” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 42.4 (October–December 1980): 1443–1464.

    DOI: 10.2307/3539960Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perceptive analysis of the transformation of labor organizations in these countries as a result of pressure from military dictatorships. The military removed union leaders tied to political parties, and the unions became more focused on securing better wages and working conditions. Available online to subscribers.

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Bolivia

For the national period, Bolivian mining has received extensive analysis, particularly for the 20th century. A general survey is Capriles Villazón 1977. Mitre 1981 examines the struggle of the silver mining industry to revive following independence, its recuperation, and then its collapse in the 1890s when the major nations opted monetarily for the gold standard. Gómez d’Angelo 1978 provides a nationalistic survey of the industry in the 20th century, when tin replaced silver as the principal mineral extracted. For an analysis of the international conditions that influenced the rise of tin mining in Bolivia, see Hillman 1984. Mitre 1993 also provides a good analysis of tin mining. The story of Simón Patiño, the most successful tin producer and probably the greatest mining entrepreneur in Latin American history, is briefly told in Klein 1965, and a fuller biography can be found in Geddes 1972 (cited under Biographies). Hillman 1988 discusses the formation of the international tin cartel, although he contends that Patiño’s role has been exaggerated. An angry denunciation of conditions endured by Bolivian tin workers is Iriarte 1972. For additional works on labor in the tin mines, see the section on Mining Labor in this bibliography. Godoy 1985 argues that indigenous workers, whether in artisanal mining or as independent contractors for larger enterprises, were more efficient than labor in state-owned COMIBOL.

  • Capriles Villazón, Orlando. Historia de la minería boliviana. Biblioteca Bamín. La Paz, Bolivia: Banco Minero de Bolivia, 1977.

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    A general survey of Bolivian mining, which focuses on the national period. Includes a useful glossary of Bolivian mining vocabulary. No bibliography.

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  • Godoy, Ricardo A. “Technical and Economic Efficiency of Peasant Miners in Bolivia.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 34.1 (October 1985): 103–120.

    DOI: 10.1086/451511Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that in the 1960s and 1970s Bolivian peasant mining, whether in artisanal workings or contractual in larger operations, was efficient economically and technically. This was particularly true in comparison with the inefficiency of COMIBOL, the state-owned mining corporation. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Gómez d’Angelo, Walter. La minería en el desarrollo económico de Bolivia, 1900–1970. Colección Economía. La Paz, Bolivia: Editorial los Amigos del Libro, 1978.

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    A thoughtful analysis that considers developmental literature. During the first two-thirds of the 20th century, Bolivia exported mineral riches but used the profits for consumption rather than internal development. Infrastructure such as railroads served the needs of the mining industry rather than the broader economy and nation. Most capital invested in mining came from Bolivian rather than foreign sources. Large appendix containing quantitative data on mining.

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  • Hillman, John. “The Emergence of the Tin Industry in Bolivia.” Journal of Latin American Studies 16.2 (November 1984): 403–437.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022216X00007124Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful assessment of how international factors influenced the way Bolivian tin mining evolved in early 1900s. That tin smelting facilities lay overseas was crucial. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Hillman, John. “Bolivia and the International Tin Cartel, 1931–1941.” Journal of Latin American Studies 20.1 (May 1988): 83–110.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022216X00002492Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Formation of the tin cartel benefited Bolivia more than other producing nations because it enjoyed a higher quota relative to productive capacity; high prices enabled marginal Bolivian mines to continue operating; and the Bolivian government was able to tax at higher levels than otherwise would have been possible. Downplays the role of Simón Patiño in cartel policies. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Iriarte, Gregorio. Galerías de la muerte: Vida de los mineros bolivianos. Montevideo, Uruguay: Tierra Nueva, 1972.

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    A brief cultural essay discussing how the mentality of Andeans changes as they become miners. Religion, especially the cults of Pachamama (Earth Mother) and the supay (underworld deity), helps them overcome their fears of work underground. It also helps them confront the hunger, poverty, abysmal housing, and economic exploitation they endure above ground. More angry and passionate than scholarly.

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  • Klein, Herbert S. “The Creation of the Patino Tin Empire.” Inter-American Economic Affairs 19.2 (Autumn 1965): 3–23.

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    A brief, balanced introduction to Simón Patiño and the mining empire he created.

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  • Mitre, Antonio. Los patriarcas de la plata: Estructura socioeconómica de la minería boliviana en el siglo XIX. Estudios Históricos 8. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1981.

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    Only with great difficulty did Bolivian silver mining recover following Independence, hindered by the loss of colonial subsidies and the new republic’s tax policies. By 1870 a new expansionary phase had begun, aided by less government regulation and better access to foreign capital. This ended in the 1890s when the major industrial nations adopted the gold standard, cutting the demand for silver.

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  • Mitre, Antonio. Bajo un cielo de estaño: Fulgor y ocaso del metal en Bolivia. La Paz, Bolivia: Asociación Nacional de Mineros Medianos, ILDIS, 1993.

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    Traces Bolivia’s transition from silver to tin producer. The collapse of world silver prices in the 1890s, coupled with rising demand for tin, gave Bolivian mining new life. But changes in the world market for tin and mismanagement within Bolivia undermined the industry.

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Brazil

Although the heydays of the early-18th-century gold rush were long passed by independence, small-scale gold mining continued in the Brazilian interior (see Albuquerque Rocha 1984). Exploration also revealed that Brazil possessed huge reserves of several nonprecious metals such as iron. A British company opened operations at Morro Velho in Minas Gerais (see Eakin 1989), although it struggled after the mid-1800s. The mining of iron and other industrial metals awaits scholarly attention. Treece 1987 discusses Carajás, a massive iron-mining project, although his main concern is how that enterprise threatens Indians in the Amazon basin. Gold output in the 20th century was revived around 1980, with a major strike at Serra Pelada (Kotscho 1984). The ensuing gold rush to Serra Pelada and other sites in Amazonia generated a number of studies. The gold mining was generally restricted to garimpagem, or small-scale, artisanal operations (Feijão and Pinto 1992). Cleary 1990 is sociological, concerned with internal migration and how such artisanal mining offers economic hope to the desperately poor of Brazil’s northeast. Larreta 2002 shows the general futility of that hope. The impact of gold mining on the Indian tribes in the Amazon and on the environment has also drawn research such as that in MacMillan 1995. On the little-studied coal mining industry of Santa Catarina, see Volpato 1984.

  • Albuquerque Rocha, Gerôneio, ed. Em Busca do Ouro: Garimpos e garimpeiros no Brasil. Coleção Nossos Dias. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Editora Marco Zero, 1984.

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    Five articles about informal, artisanal mining in various regions of the Brazilian Amazon in the late 20th century, plus one about the prospectors and another that provides a historical overview of the phenomenon, which extends back to colonial times.

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  • Cleary, David. Anatomy of the Amazon Gold Rush. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990.

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    Based on extensive field research in the mid-1980s and focused on the social dimensions of the rush into the Amazonian wilderness by hundreds of thousands of Brazilians from all social classes and all regions of the country.

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  • Eakin, Marshall C. British Enterprise in Brazil: The St. John d’el Rey Mining Company and the Morro Velho Gold Mine, 1830–1960. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1989.

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    The best history of a Brazilian mining company. Examines the entrepreneurship of George Chalmers, who made St. John d’el Rey a thriving foreign-owned business in Brazil, but one that struggled following his death. Valuable also because it carries the history forward to 1960, when the company expired.

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  • Feijão, Antônio da Justa, and José Armindo Pinto. “Amazônia e a saga aurífera do século XX.” In Garimpo, Meio Ambiente e Sociedades Indígenas. Edited by Lívia Barbosa, Ana Lúcia Lobato, and José Augusto Drummond, 18–36. Niterói, Brazil: Universidade Federal Fluminense, 1992.

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    Garimpagem (manual or semimechanized mining) has characterized the second great cycle of Brazilian gold production that began in 1980. Defines various forms of garimpagem, describes geographic distribution of such mining activities in the Amazon basin, assesses level of production, and discusses environmental impact, particularly mercury pollution.

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  • Kotscho, Ricardo. Serra Pelada: Uma ferida aberta na selva. São Paulo, Brazil: Brasiliense, 1984.

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    Remarkable journalistic depiction of life in the most famous mining camp in Brazil’s Amazonian gold rush. Serra Pelada attracted tens of thousands, who endured primitive, chaotic conditions for the chance of striking it rich.

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  • Larreta, Enrique Rodriguez. “Gold Is Illusion”: The Garimpeiros of Tapajos Valley in the Brazilian Amazonia. Stockholm Studies in Social Anthropology 50. Stockholm: Department of Social Anthropology, 2002.

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    A perceptive ethnographic analysis of the formation of society in a gold-mining region of western Pará, Brazil, through the migration of workers to Tapajos, many of whom were desperately poor.

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  • MacMillan, Gordon. At the End of the Rainbow? Gold, Land and People in the Brazilian Amazon. London: Earthscan Publications, 1995.

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    Describes the impact of Brazil’s gold rush in the 1980s on the northern state of Roraima. Good discussion of the problems in government policy, working conditions, and the miners’ intrusion into indigenous lands, particularly those reserved for the Yanomamis.

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  • Treece, Dave. Bound in Misery and Iron: The Impact of the Grande Carajás Programme on the Indians of Brazil. Human Rights Documents: General, 166. London: Survival International, 1987.

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    An early and passionate call for protecting indigenous peoples from the vast environmental devastation perpetrated by the Carajás mining project.

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  • Volpato, Terezinha Gascho. A Pirita Humana: Os Mineiros de Criciúma. Florianópolis, Brazil: Editora da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, 1984.

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    An analysis of labor in the coal mines of Santa Catarina from the perspective of their work underground, their families, and their unions.

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Caribbean

Although Spaniards mined some gold in the early-16th-century Caribbean, mineral resources were scarce. In the 1800s, while Cuba was still a Spanish colony, some attempts were made to exploit the island’s copper and other minerals, but without lasting success (González Loscertales and Roldán de Montaud 1980, and Moyano Bazzani and Fernández Alonso 1998). Jamaica has exploited large bauxite deposits (Mulchansingh 1971).

  • González Loscertales, Vicente, and Inés Roldán de Montaud. “La minería del cobre en Cuba: Su organización, problemas administrativos y repercusiones sociales (1828–1849).” Revista de Indias 40.159/162 (1980): 255–299.

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    Although Cuban copper had been mined briefly in the 16th century, extraction was revived in the early 1800s, with output purchased by British merchant houses. Spanish officials had trouble regulating and taxing the industry, which dislocated labor and challenged the prevailing social order.

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  • Moyano Bazzani, Eduardo L., and Serena Fernández Alonso. “La minería cubana en las últimas décadas del siglo XIX.” Anuario de Estudios Americanos 55.1 (January 1998): 221–242.

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    During the final third of the 19th century, Spain promoted copper and iron mining on Cuba, along with small amounts of coal, gold, and magnesium. The United States imported most Cuban mineral production.

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  • Mulchansingh, Vernon C. “The Bauxite/Alumina Industry of Jamaica.” Journal of Tropical Geography 33 (December 1971): 20–30.

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    Although Jamaica is a significant factor in world aluminum production, the bauxite mined there is not processed locally and thus offers disappointingly few jobs.

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Chile

Although Chile had a modest mining industry during colonial times, it became one of the most important mining nations following independence, with the industrializing world’s demand for nonprecious metals such as copper. Sutulov 1976 is a broad survey, and Vayssière 1980 offers a good overview of Chilean mining for the century ending in 1930, which encompassed the emergence of copper extraction, the nitrate boom, and the reinvigoration of copper. A third survey, Danús V. 2007, deals with the second half of the 20th century. Julio Pinto Vallejos has written prolifically and perceptively on the social history of Chilean mining in works such as Pinto Vallejos 1990 and Pinto Vallejos 1997. The proletarianization of nitrate workers is highlighted in the collection of documents Devés 1988 related to the massacre of laborers in Iquique in 1907. Mamalakis 1971 assesses the profitability of Chilean copper mining for national development prior to Allende’s rise to power and subsequent overthrow by the Chilean military.

  • Danús V., Hernán. Crónicas mineras de medio siglo, 1950–2000. Santiago, Chile: RIL Editores, 2007.

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    Descriptive rather than analytic. A Chilean mining engineer’s detailed perspective on the panorama of his nation’s mining history during the second half of the 20th century.

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  • Devés, Eduardo. Los que van a morir te saludan: Historia de una masacre: Escuela Santa María Iquique, 1907. Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Documentas, América Latina Libros, Nuestra América, 1988.

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    An important collection of documents related to the Chilean military’s massacre of striking mine workers from the northern nitrate fields. Useful for the study of Chilean labor organization and proletarianization.

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  • Mamalakis, Markos. “Contribution of Copper to Chilean Economic Development, 1920–1967: Profile of a Foreign-Owned Sector.” In Foreign Investment in the Petroleum and Mineral Industries: Case Studies of Investor–Host Country Relations. Edited by Raymond A. Mikesell, 387–420. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971.

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    Despite the centrality of copper mining to the Chilean economy, its contribution to national development was hindered by inefficient distribution of the profits from mining and a policy that favored the import of capital and consumer goods.

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  • Pinto Vallejos, Julio. “La transición laboral en el norte salitrero: La provincia de Tarapacá y los orígenes del proletariado en Chile 1870–1890.” Historia 25 (1990): 207–228.

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    Historians of Chilean labor have considered mine workers the origin of the nation’s proletariat and viewed the social violence in the late 1880s in the nitrate fields of Tarapacá as proof of that assertion. Pinto shows, however, that although nitrate workers were undergoing proletarianization, stevedores and office workers from Iquique started the famous 1890 strike/riot and later called on the miners for help.

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  • Pinto Vallejos, Julio, ed. Episodios de historia minera: Estudios de historia social y económica de la minería chilena, siglos XVIII–XIX. Colección Ciencias Sociales. Santiago, Chile: Editorial Universidad de Santiago, 1997.

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    Six articles about Chilean mining, from a microhistorical perspective. Treats topics such as leather used in mining, mercury, popular culture, proletarianization, and biography.

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  • Sutulov, Alexander. Minería chilena: 1945–1975. Santiago, Chile: Centro de Investigación Minera y Metalúrgica, 1976.

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    A chronological overview of Chilean mining history, from colonial times to 1975. More descriptive than analytical, but contains a large appendix of statistical data on mining output.

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  • Vayssière, Pierre. Un siècle de capitalisme minier au Chili, 1830–1930. Amérique Latine—Pays Ibériques. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1980.

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    A good overview of Chilean mining, covering both the nitrate and copper sectors, and also including information about technological change in the mines and refineries, and the proletarianization of labor. Useful bibliography.

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Colombia

Although gold mining continued in Colombia after independence, other economic products such as coffee and cocaine garnered more attention. Studies on modern Colombian mining are relatively scarce, compared to the major mining nations. Nonetheless, see El Oro en Colombia 1987 for a general history and Poveda Ramos 1981 for an analysis of mining operations in Antioquia.

  • Instituto de Estudios Colombianos. El oro en Colombia. Bogotá, Colombia: Instituto de Estudios Colombianos, 1987.

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    Provides a historical overview of gold mining in Colombia, which is much more detailed for the 20th century. Although Colombia was traditionally the largest gold producer in Spanish America, its share of world output in the late 20th century struggled to reach two percent. Contains useful statistical data and graphs.

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  • Poveda Ramos, Gabriel. Minas y mineros de Antioquia. Medellín, Colombia: Banco de la República, 1981.

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    Brief overview of colonial production but primarily focused on the 19th and 20th centuries. Good discussion of technological changes in the industry. Contains data on gold production.

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Mexico

Following independence, Mexican mining struggled to recover its former glory. Foreign investors rushed to exploit Mexican miners, but in most cases were disappointed with the results (see Randall 1972 and Rankine 1992). Continued reliance on amalgamation to refine much of the silver posed difficulties because mercury had to be obtained on the international market, where it was monopolized until 1850 by the Rothschilds (Herrera Canales 1990). By the late 19th century, mining had recovered its dynamism (Velasco Ávila 1988), expanding into new regions (Contreras Delgado and Gámez 2004) and exploiting nonprecious metals in addition to the traditional silver and gold. For mining during the Porfiriato and first half of the 20th century, including the Revolution, Bernstein 1965 is detailed and thorough on most aspects except social history. Sariego 1988 analyzes how mining was affected by the changing political conditions resulting from the Revolution. Calderón 2000 presents a useful comparison of Mexican coal mines employed in Coahuila and across the border in the United States.

  • Bernstein, Marvin. The Mexican Mining Industry, 1890–1950: A Study of the Interaction of Politics, Economics, and Technology. Albany: State University of New York, 1965.

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    Examines how the Mexican mining industry changed from the time of the Díaz dictatorship, when the regime took a laissez-faire attitude toward foreign investors, through the Mexican Revolution into the 1950s, when regulation became much stricter. Long and detailed, the book argues that mining contributed greatly to Mexican development, despite nationalist rhetoric against foreign involvement in the industry.

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  • Calderón, Roberto R. Mexican Coal Mining Labor in Texas and Coahuila, 1880–1930. Rio Grande/Río Bravo 2. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000.

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    Compares the transition of coal mining in northern Mexico with its counterpart across the border in the southwestern United States, tracing the transition from hand-loading to modern, mechanized extraction, and assesses the performance of Mexican workers, who provided the labor in both regions.

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  • Contreras Delgado, Camilo, and Moisés Gámez, eds. Procesos y espacios mineros: Fundición y minería en el centro y noreste de México durante el porfiriato. Colección México Norte. Tijuana, Mexico: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2004.

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    Four articles, two of which discuss the mining activities of US companies in late-19th-century Mexico (Guggenheim and Mexican Mining Company) and two that discuss operations funded with Mexican capital, as Mexican mining moved from its concentration on silver to the production of nonprecious metals.

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  • Herrera Canales, Inés. “Mercurio para refinar la plata Mexicana en el siglo XIX.” Historia Mexicana 40.1 (1990): 27–51.

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    Mexican silver refiners continued to use amalgamation through the 1800s and, until mid-century, depended for mercury on the Rothschild monopoly that controlled Almadén. Discovery of the New Almadén mercury deposits in California broke the monopoly after 1851, lowered mercury costs, and increased supplies.

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  • Randall, Robert William. Real del Monte: A British Mining Venture in Mexico. Latin American Monographs 26. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972.

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    Concludes that the British Real del Monte mining company, well funded and technologically sound, failed within three decades because of poor management, misguided mining objectives, and difficult labor relations. It was little affected, however, by the political turmoil that afflicted the early years of independent Mexico.

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  • Rankine, Margaret E. “The Mexican Mining Industry in the Nineteenth Century with Special Reference to Guanajuato.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 11.1 (January 1992): 29–48.

    DOI: 10.2307/3338598Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good introduction to the difficulties of trying to revive Mexican silver mining following independence, particularly in the areas of foreign investment and relations with Mexican mine workers.

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  • Sariego, Juan Luis. El estado y la minería Mexicana: Política, trabajo y sociedad durante el siglo XX. Mexico City, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1988.

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    The Mexican Revolution brought important changes to Mexican mining, as the industry was forced to balance its own needs with demands from labor and the Mexican people, as mediated by the state.

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  • Velasco Ávila, Cuauhtémoc, ed. Estado y minería en México (1767–1910). Industria Paraestatal en México 4. Mexico City, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1988.

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    Survey of Mexican mining from the Bourbon period in the 18th century to the end of the Porfiriato and the eruption of the Mexico Revolution, with a particular focus on how the policies of first the Spanish and then the Mexican states promoted and at times hindered the industry.

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Peru

In Peru silver mining did not suffer the same post-independence malaise endured by Bolivia and Mexico. The two important books Deustua 1986 and Deustua 2000 trace its fortunes during the 1800s. Much of the writing on Peruvian mining during the national period has examined the transformation of labor, from the colonial system in which indigenous workers did not stay permanently at the mines but retained close ties to their agricultural villages and thus delayed proletarianization. Bonilla 1974 points out this phenomenon, and it has been further explored by other researchers (see, for example, Flores Galindo 1974; Dewind 1975, and Contreras 1988). Kruijt and Vellinga 1977 analyze how mining enclaves function within the broader society, drawing on their study of foreign-owned Cerro de Pasco Corporation. The late-20th-century revival of Peruvian gold mines is examined by Torres C. 2007.

  • Bonilla, Heraclio. El minero de los Andes: Una aproximación a su estudio. Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, Colección Minima. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1974.

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    Short but important study of labor at Cerro de Pasco’s Morococha mine (1920–1970), which contends that Peruvian workers have lasting links to their villages and never become fully proletarianized.

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  • Contreras, Carlos. Mineros y campesinos en los Andes: Mercado laboral y economía campesina en la sierra central, siglo XIX. 2d ed. Serie Estudios Históricos 12. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1988.

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    Analyzes the links between the Andean peasantry and mine labor, as silver producers attempted to overcome the loss of colonial subsidies and credits. Many mine workers spent part of the year in their villages working in agriculture and toiled only temporarily in the mines.

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  • Deustua, José R. La minería peruana y la iniciación de la república, 1820–1840. Estudios Históricos 11. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1986.

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    Unlike Bolivia or Mexico, Peruvian silver mining quickly recovered from the wars of independence, aided not only by the great operations at Cerro de Pasco but by mines throughout the country. Mining thus stimulated other sectors of the economy, even though most mining companies were of medium or small size.

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  • Deustua, José R. The Bewitchment of Silver: The Social Economy of Mining in Nineteenth-Century Peru. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000.

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    The best survey of 19th-century Peruvian mining, including the continuation of silver extraction following independence and the emergence of copper. Considers Peru’s failure to use mining profits for internal development. E-book.

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  • Dewind, Adrian. “From Peasants to Miners: The Background to Strikes in the Mines of Peru.” Science & Society 39.1 (Spring 1975): 44–72.

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    Modernization, especially mechanization, of Peruvian mines after 1930 transformed the labor force by requiring more skilled workers. This led to greater proletarianization, which in turn resulted in more labor militancy and strikes. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Flores Galindo, Alberto. Los mineros de la Cerro de Pasco, 1900–1930: Un intento de caracterización social. Serie de Sociología 2. Lima, Peru: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 1974.

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    Social analysis of the labor policies of what was Peru’s largest mining company and how workers resisted, often violently.

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  • Kruijt, Dirk, and Menno Vellinga. “The Political Economy of Mining Enclaves in Peru.” Boletín de Estudios Latino-Americanos y del Caribe 23 (1977): 97–126.

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    Uses the Cerro de Pasco Corporation to examine how it fit into Peru economically and politically as an enclave that remained socially separate and what political and legal linkages enabled it to maintain that status. Draws broader conclusions about the features of economic enclaves.

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  • Torres C., Víctor. Minería artesanal y a gran escala en el Perú: El caso de oro. Lima, Peru: CooperAcción, Acción Solidaria para el Desarrollo, 2007.

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    Compares the two types of gold mining, which achieved significant dynamism in the 1990s in the regions of Madre de Dio, Puno, La Libertad, and Sur Medio. Considers their environmental, social, and economic similarities and differences.

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Environmental Impact

Since 1990 the ecological consequences of mining have received increasing attention. Although most studies discuss late-20th-century environmental issues, Brown 2001 analyzes the deadly conditions that prevailed in the colonial mercury mines at Huancavelica. Mercury contamination of the Amazon by modern gold refiners is the theme of Biller 1994, representative of many studies on that subject. Two health maladies suffered by mine workers, altitude sickness in the high Andes and silicosis from underground work, are studied by Arregui and Valcarcel C. 1990 and Vergara 2005. There is a brief survey of mining and the environment in Mexico in Herrera Canales and González Marín 1995, but more study of that nation is needed. Dore 1994 links capitalism and modern mining technology with great environmental devastation, but McMahon, et al. 1999 points to the damage caused by small-scale miners, many of who lack funding to safeguard the environment. Also valuable is Cederstav and Barandiarán 2002 on the extreme ecological harm caused by ore smelting at La Oroya in Peru.

  • Arregui, A., F. León Velarde, and M. Valcarcel C. Salud y minería: El riesgo del mal de montaña crónico entre mineros de Cerro de Pasco. Lima, Peru: Asociación Laboral para el Desarrollo, 1990.

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    The Cerro de Pasco mines lay above 4,000 meters. Workers there undergo some physiological adaptation but many are still subject to chronic altitude sickness.

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  • Biller, Dan. Informal Gold Mining and Mercury Pollution in Brazil. Policy Research Working papers, 1304. Washington, DC: World Bank, Policy Research Department, Public Economics Division, 1994.

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    Despite often-abysmal working conditions, miners in the Amazon produce much of Brazil’s gold. Their use of mercury for refining has caused widespread pollution. Proposes regulations and reforms to mitigate environmental damage.

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  • Brown, Kendall W. “Workers’ Health and Colonial Mercury Mining at Huancavelica, Peru.” Americas 57.4 (April 2001): 467–496.

    DOI: 10.1353/tam.2001.0030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Working conditions at the Huancavelica mercury mines were so dangerous around 1600 that one official called it a public slaughterhouse. In the early 1600s, perhaps two-thirds of workers died from injuries, mercury poisoning, and other job-related maladies. That rate declined to one-third by 1700, as rich ores were exhausted and ventilation improved in the principal mine. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Cederstav, Anna K., and Alberto Barandiarán. La Oroya Cannot Wait. Lima, Peru: Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental, 2002.

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    A dual-language (Spanish and English versions in the same volume) analysis of the disastrous ecological impact of mineral smelting at La Oroya, in the mountains east of Lima. La Oroya has been classified as one of the most polluted places on earth.

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  • Dore, Elizabeth. “Una interpretación socio-ecológica de la historia minera latinoamericana.” Revista de Ecología política 7 (1994): 49–68.

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    Even in pre-Columbian times, mining disrupted the American environment, but the impact worsened with colonial exploitation of Latin America’s mineral resources. Modern use of open-pit techniques at Chile’s Chuquicamata, Peru’s Cerro de Pasco, and elsewhere left ecological devastation without bringing the countries socio-economic improvement.

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  • Herrera Canales, Inés, and Eloy González Marín. Mining, Metallurgy, and the Environment in Mexico during the Twentieth Century. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: International Council on Metals and the Environment, 1995.

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    A brief introduction to the ecological challenges created by centuries of intensive mining in Mexico.

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  • McMahon, Gary, José Luis Evia, Alberto Pasco-Font, and Jose Miguel Sanchez. An Environmental Study of Artisanal, Small, and Medium Mining in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. World Bank Technical Paper 429. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1999.

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    Small- and medium-scale mining offer employment in these three Andean nations and are an important part of popular culture in the region. They are difficult to regulate in Peru and Bolivia, where they also cause significant pollution. The environmental threat is less serious in Chile.

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  • Vergara, Angela. “The Recognition of Silicosis: Labor Unions and Physicians in the Chilean Copper Industry, 1930s–1960s.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 79.4 (Winter 2005): 723–748.

    DOI: 10.1353/bhm.2005.0176Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By 1970 Chile had adopted legislation and the medical infrastructure necessary to curtail silicosis, the copper miners’ most prevalent health problem. Union pressure and a progressive political climate contributed to the successful campaign, which was halted by the Pinochet dictatorship.

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Gender

Only recently have scholars turned their attention in a significant way to the study of gender in Latin American mining. In Nash 1975, ethnographer June Nash pointed to women’s role in pressing for better wages and working conditions for their men. Other works by Nash (see Nash 1972; Nash 1979, and Nash 1985 under Miners’ Culture) also contain many references to female participation in Bolivian mining. Rodríguez Ostria 1988 is brief but discusses the ways that women have participated in the Bolivian mining economy. Barrios de Chungara 1978 shows at a personal level what it was like to be a woman and a political activist caught up in the turmoil of Bolivian tin mining in the 1960s and 1970s. More sophisticated in terms of theory are Finn 1998, Klubock 1998, and Mangan 2005.

  • Barrios de Chungara, Domitila, and Moema Viezzer. Let Me Speak! Testimony of Domitila, a Woman of the Bolivian Mines. Translated by Victoria Ortiz. New York: Monthly Review, 1978.

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    Autobiographical “testimony” by a Bolivian woman and political activist, who provides a moving, powerful description of life for families at the tin mines. Describes the insecurity and poverty prevalent in the mining towns and the government’s repressive tactics when nationalization of the tin mines failed to produce the anticipated prosperity for the mine workers and their families.

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  • Finn, Janet L. Tracing the Veins: Of Copper, Culture, and Community from Butte to Chuquicamata. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    Using the operations of Anaconda Copper Corporation, the author compares ethnographically the impact of mining on workers and their families in Butte, Montana, and Chuquicamata, Chile. Particularly good on mining and gender. E-book.

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  • Klubock, Thomas Miller. Contested Communities: Class, Gender, and Politics in Chile’s El Teniente Copper Mine, 1904–1951. Comparative and International Working-Class History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

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    Examines the emergence of labor militancy at Chile’s El Teniente copper mine during the first half of the 20th century as a result of the interaction between international capitalism, the policies of the Chilean state, and transformations in the construction of gender for the men and women who went to work there.

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  • Mangan, Jane E. Trading Roles: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí. Latin America Otherwise. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

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    Shows how women in the 16th and 17th centuries played a vital role in Potosí’s mining economy through their production of food and other items needed by the mine workers and other residents of the great city.

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  • Nash, June C. “Resistance as Protest: Women in the Struggle of Bolivian Tin-Mining Communities.” In Women Cross-Culturally: Change and Challenge. Edited by Ruby Rohrlich-Leavitt, 261–271. The Hague: Mouton, 1975.

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    Drawing particularly from incidents at the Siglo XX tin mine in Bolivia, shows how women carry out protests to resist management and the government when other masculine resistance bears no fruit.

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  • Rodriguez Ostria, Gustavo. “Las compañeras del mineral.” Nueva Sociedad 93 (January–February 1988): 177–186.

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    A brief but suggestive exploration of women’s long involvement in Bolivian mining: although usually excluded, women occasionally were allowed to work underground and nearly always to labor as high-graders on the surface; and women played an important role in homemaker committees that pressed companies and the government for better conditions and wages for the men.

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Mining Labor

Studies of labor in Latin American mining are both plentiful and high quality. For colonial Potosí up to 1700, Cole 1985 discusses the mita, the abusive system of rotating forced labor imposed by the Spaniards on the indigenous population. Tandeter 1993, cited under Peru, continues analysis of the mita for the 18th century. Bakewell 1984 corrects the impression that Potosí relied chiefly on forced labor, showing that perhaps half of that population were free workers. The most famous colonial incident of overt mine worker resistance occurred at Real del Monte in Mexico and is analyzed in Ladd 1988. Rodríguez Ostria 1989 examines small-scale silver miners, who often worked clandestinely, to produce silver in 19th-century Bolivia. Important aspects of labor in Bolivian tin mines are dealt with in Lora 1977, Pelaez R. and Vargas S. 1980, and Contreras 1985. In addition, for mine labor since independence in Peru and Chile, several bibliographic entries in the sections for those individual countries are pertinent. For Brazil up until nearly the end of the 19th century, slaves did much of the mine work. Libby 1984 examines the efficiency and profitability of slavery in the gold mines of Minas Gerais during the 1800s. For additional works on slavery in Brazilian mine labor, see Russell-Wood 1977 and Higgins 1999 in the section on colonial Brazil, and Eakin 1989 in the section on modern Brazil.

  • Bakewell, Peter. Miners of the Red Mountain: Indian Labor in Potosí, 1545–1650. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984.

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    Succinct and accessible analysis of the evolution of forced and free indigenous labor during the first century at Potosí. Bakewell convincingly shows that half the labor force consisted of free workers, even though the common perception is that mita (forced) laborers made up most of the labor force.

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  • Cole, Jeffrey. The Potosí Mita, 1573–1700: Compulsory Indian Labor in the Andes. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985.

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    No Spanish-American mining district had a more infamous labor system than did Potosí, with its mita (rotating forced labor), and Cole traces its institutional development under Habsburg rule. Formally established by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in the 1570s to help refiners offset the cost of introducing amalgamation, the mita caused tremendous disruption in the provinces that supplied workers and soon proved able to supply only a reduced portion of the workers Toledo had assigned.

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  • Contreras, Manuel E. “La mano de obra en la minería estañífera de principios de siglo, 1900–1925.” Historia y Cultura 8 (1985): 97–134.

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    The explosion of Bolivian tin mining around 1900 created a great demand for labor that could not be satisfied even after the mines were mechanized. Tin miners had to compete with agriculture and railroad builders for workers, as well as with foreign employers, especially in Chile. Wages rose and mining companies provided medical care and other modest benefits. The companies’ attempts to reduce wages led workers to organize.

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  • Ladd, Doris. The Making of a Strike: Mexican Silver Workers’ Struggles in Real del Monte, 1766–1775. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

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    The best of several studies of the most famous incident of miners’ overt resistance of colonial oppression. When the eminent Mexican mining entrepreneur Pedro Romero de Terreros attempted to abolish ore-sharing in his mines at Real del Monte, workers rioted and went on strike.

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  • Libby, Douglas Cole. Trabalho Escravo e Capital Estrangeiro no Brasil: O Caso de Morro Velho. Biblioteca de Estudos Brasileiros 1. São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Itatiaia, 1984.

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    In the 19th century, the Morro Velho gold mine in Minas Gerais operated by the British-owned St. John d’El Rey company depended on slave labor in part because it was more efficient and profitable than were the free workers.

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  • Lora, Guillermo. A History of the Bolivian Labour Movement, 1848–1971. Translated by Christine Whitehead. Cambridge Latin American Studies 27. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511759598Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An abridgement of Lora’s five-volume work on the same topic. Covers labor during a crucial period for Brazilian mining, with events leading up to the Revolution of 1952, the nationalizations of the great tin mines, COMIBOL’s failure, and workers’ resistance to military rule.

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  • Pelaez R., Segundino, and Marina Vargas S. Estaño, sangre y sudor (tragedia del minor locatario). Oruro, Bolivia: Editorial Universitaria, 1980.

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    After the nationalization of Bolivia’s great tin mines and their subsequent exploitation by Comibol, the government-run mining corporation, many workers unable to obtain COMIBOL employment became locatarios. They worked pits abandoned by Comibol and survived according to the tin they produced. This short study analyzes the plight of the locatarios.

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  • Rodriguez Ostria, Gustavo. “Kajchas, trapicheros y ladrones de mineral en Bolivia (1824–1900) (Kajchas, artisanal refiners, and ore thieves in Bolivia, 1824–1900).” Siglo XIX 4.8 (July–December 1989): 125–139.

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    During the 19th century, much Bolivian silver output came, often illegally, from a network of artisanal producers (trapicheros) who ground and refined ores brought to them by mine workers. These obtained the ore either legitimately as part of their compensation (kajchas) or illegally by smuggling it out of mines that they in many instances had entered by stealth (ladrones de mineral).

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Revolution

Several studies analyze mining either as a catalyst for revolution or revolution’s impact on mining. Gonzáles 1994, for example, assesses how the 1906 strike at the Cananea copper mines destabilized the Díaz regime and contributed to the onset of the Mexican Revolution. Gonzáles 1996 finds that during the Mexican Revolution, Cananea’s copper miners were, if employed, more interested in economic matters than political revolution, although some unemployed workers took up arms for the Constitutionalists. Mine workers played a major role in the Bolivian Revolution of 1952 and then pressed for nationalization of the mining industry (Anaya 1952). Gall 1974 passionately writes of the workers’ hopes frustrated by mismanagement of the mines once they had been taken over by the government and the human costs of the ensuing political and economic turmoil. On Chilean mine workers’ ability to resist pressure from both the Allende and Pinochet regimes, see Zapata 1985.

  • Anaya, Ricardo. Nacionalización de las minas de Bolivia. Cochabamba, Bolivia: Imprenta Universitaria, 1952.

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    Written by a lawyer, this book conveys the legal arguments and exudes the nationalist sentiment that accompanied the Revolution of 1952, which was soon followed by the nationalization of the great tin mines.

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  • Gall, Norman. “Bolivia: The Price of Tin. Part I, Patiño Mines and Enterprises.” American Universities Field Staff 21.1–2 (January 1974).

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    A powerfully written account of the impact of tin mining on the workers and how nationalization of the great mines failed to improve their lives. By a journalist with long years of experience and academic training relative to Latin America. The second part of this article, “Bolivia: The Price of Tin, part II: The Crisis of Nationalization,” can also be found online.

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  • Gonzáles, Michael J. “United States Copper Companies, the State, and Labour Conflict in Mexico, 1900–1910.” Journal of Latin American Studies 26.3 (October 1994): 651–681.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022216X00008555Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The 1906 strike at Cananea, Sonora, against Col. William C. Greene’s US-based operations, had economic rather than political motives. The Díaz regime’s difficulty in dealing with the strike showed its weakness to the Mexican public and the privileged status of US companies in Mexico. Good overview of Mexican copper mining in the decades leading up to the Revolution of 1910. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Gonzáles, Michael J. “U.S. Copper Companies, the Mine Workers’ Movement, and the Mexican Revolution, 1910–1920.” Hispanic American Historical Review 76.3 (August 1996): 503–534.

    DOI: 10.2307/2517815Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Questions the role played by Mexican miners in the revolution of 1910. Workers at Cananea in Sonora struck in 1906 against the US company that ran the mine, heightening tensions against the Díaz regime. Some unemployed workers joined the Constitutionalist revolutionaries, and their support eventually produced pro-labor laws from the revolutionary government. Available online to subscribers.

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  • Zapata, Francisco. “Nationalisation, Copper Miners and the Military Government in Chile.” In Miners and Mining in the Americas. Edited by Thomas C. Greaves and William Culver, 257–276. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1985.

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    Examines the strategies and actions of the miners’ union at the Chuquicamata copper mine during the Pinochet military dictatorship. Because of the mine’s crucial role in supplying foreign earnings, the union found ways of protecting the workers economic status even when faced with opposition from the regime.

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Miners’ Culture

Cultural studies of mining include analysis of how indigenous workers have preserved parts of their traditional culture despite toiling in the mines and refineries. In that respect see particularly Nash 1972 and Nash 1985. Nash’s broad ethnographic study (Nash 1979) elucidates many aspects of mine workers’ culture in a tin mining community. The documentary film Davidson and Ladkani 2005 powerfully reveals what life is like for a boy compelled by economic need to toil in Potosí’s mines. For a popular audience, Ferry 1999, part text and part outstanding photographs, reveals life in Potosí. The personal accounts in Vásquez and Rodríguez, eds. 1988 depict many aspects of Mexican mining culture. Another work that seeks to capture the culture of a mining city is Oporto Ordóñez 2007.

  • Davidson, Kief, and Richard Ladkani, dirs. The Devil’s Miner. DVD. New York: First Run/Icarus Films, 2005.

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    A powerful documentary film showing fourteen-year-old Basilio Vargas and his younger brother, whose poverty forces them to work in Potosí’s mines, where conditions seem little changed from the 1500s. Good footage of work underground and miners’ religious rituals.

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  • Ferry, Stephen. I Am Rich Potosí: The Mountain That Eats Men. New York: Monacelli, 1999.

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    Lavishly illustrated with color photographs and accessible, this book evokes the harsh life for miners at Potosí and the perseverance of indigenous culture as a means of coping with the demands imposed by the mountain.

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  • Nash, June. “The Devil in Bolivia’s Nationalized Tin Mines.” Science and Society 36.2 (Summer 1972): 221–233.

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    Whereas the cult of the Devil, or Tío, helped lessen conflict between workers and mine owners before nationalization of the mines, it increased hostility toward the Barrientos military dictatorship, once it tried to eliminate worship of the Tío.

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  • Nash, June. We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

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    A fundamental ethnographic study, based on long years of living with and interviewing mining families. Perceptive descriptions of conditions in the mining camps. Excellent in analyzing strategies (such as labor organization, education, and appeals to Andean deities) used by miners and their families to cope with the harsh, unhealthy conditions.

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  • Nash, June. “Religión, rebelión y conciencia de clase en las comunidades mineras del estaño de Bolivia.” Revista del Instituto Pastoral Andina 22.26 (1985): 113–135.

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    More than elsewhere in Latin America, miners in Bolivia have preserved aspects of ancient Andean religion to interpret their relationship with the underworld. Participation in those rituals heightens class consciousness among miners and sometimes coincides with violent protests and revolts against management and the government.

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  • Oporto Ordóñez, Luis. Uncía y Llallagua: Empresa minerea capitalista y estrategias de apropriación real del espacio (1900–1935). Lima, Peru: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, 2007.

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    Simón Patiño, the tin king, had his earliest operations around Uncía and Llallagua, and much that has been written about the region focuses on his activities. This book, however, discusses the communities and culture that emerged in the region as a result of mining.

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  • Vásquez, Lorena, and María Elvira Rodríguez, eds. Relato minero. Serie Testimonios. Mexico City, Mexico: Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, 1988.

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    An anthology of fourteen “testimonies,” in which Mexican miners relate their stories as a way of preserving that aspect of Mexican popular culture.

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LAST MODIFIED: 10/28/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199766581-0016

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