Published on Al Jazeera English on 4th of April 2016
Llallagua, Bolivia – It started out of necessity 15 years ago. Dolly Quillka Bautista’s husband had slipped into a coma after an accident in the mines, leaving her without an income to feed their six children. She tried odd jobs, but the only one that made her enough money to survive was at the tin mine. So Quillka, in her early 30s at the time, took her husband’s helmet and lamp, and went to work at the mine.
Quillka’s first weeks were mainly dominated by fear – on average, last year, every two weeks someone died in Llallagua’s mines because of a collapsed roof or of poisonous gas, according to Francisca Alicia Soliz Mendez, who heads the local Federation of the Co-operatives organisation for miners. Without any training, villagers enter the mines in groups called “cooperativas” in Spanish, meaning co-operatives.