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    Bolivia's infamous Cerro Rico, also known as "rich hill," looms over Potosí city.  | Photo: AFP

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Bolivian officials denied reports on Thursday that the Bolivian World Heritage Site of Cerro Rico had collapsed.

The Potosi Civic Committee (Comcipo), an alliance of unions and social organizations from the Bolivian city of Potosi, announced a new collapse at the Cerro Rico Mountain, which is sinking after more than five centuries of mining for silver and other minerals.

Comcipo Vice President Marco Pumari called for “immediate government intervention” to help preserve the Cerro Rico mine, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage in 1987.

Cerro Rico's silver and other mineral deposits have been exploited since 1545 and were the main source of wealth for Spain in colonial times, making it prone to cave-ins and landslides.

However, the Bolivian Minister of Mining issued a response on Thursday refuting claims that the mountain had collapsed, stating, “In the case of the Cerro Rico there is a lot of generic rhetoric that only serves to generate speculation and rumors.”

The back-and-forth between La Paz and Comcipo escalated last month when members of the group held a 26-day long strike demanding a wide range of proposals including government assistance in the preservation of the Cerro Rico mountain.

The Bolivian government launched an initiative last year to preserve the mine by banning mineral extraction at several locations throughout the Cerro Rico, Minister Navarro said in a press release on Thursday.

Bolivian officials began relocating mining cooperative workers away from hazardous areas of the mountains and dumped over 50,000 tons of dirt around its base to maintain the shape of the mountain, according to Navarro. 

 

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