The history of mining in Latin America is, to a considerable degree, the history of Latin America itself. If mining activity is not ubiquitous across the continent, it is certainly widespread, and in the Andean region it plays a dominant role in local and national economies. Pre-Hispanic cultures mined gold, silver, and other metals for use in ceremonial and decorative items. But it was with the arrival of the Portuguese and especially the Spanish that mining activities came to dominate and re-orient regional economies. Since the 1540s, when the Spanish established their first mines at Potosí, mining has shaped the course of Latin American history and established patterns of socially and spatially uneven development. It has been estimated that between 1492 and 1810, roughly 1,685 metric tonnes of gold and nearly 86,000 metric tonnes of silver were shipped out of what is now Latin America–a current value of roughly US$210 billion (Bebbington and Bury, 2013). The historical experience of colonial and neocolonial exploitation animates popular imaginaries of Latin America and its place in the global capitalist system, and in turn informs political programs on both right and left.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)