Borax production in Rio Grande

September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

After a long day at the lithium plant, a truck driver took me with him to Rio Grande. Around the village there are waste deposits of Borax / Ulexit (until now I have no idea what that exactly is and what it’s used for). During the 90’s, a chilean company had the license to mine the Borax at Rio Grande, but after sharph protests they lost the concession and now 2 bolivian cooperatives work in Rio Grande (which is one of the dustiest places ever, I only called it Rio Dusty. By the way, Rio Grande means big river but there is no big river there at all.)

Here one can see one of the few railway lines in Bolivia. There is a connection with the chilean harbor city Antofagasta, so some of the Borax is exported through Chile. The white bags on the right are full with the material.

In this photo it appears a little bit too dark but here you can see Borax. Similar to the salt in the Salar.

The following picture shows one of several “pools” where the mined Borax material gets “washed” with water. I guess that’s in order to separate different salts and minerals / chemicals by evaporation, maybe comparable to the lithium process in the piscinas.

I portrayed some of the workers who connect water tubes for the washing process.

That’s how it looks around Rio Grande. There are a lot of trucks to transport the washed Borax / Ulexit away.

Rio Grande and the Borax production there were interesting to me because it’s located only a few kilometres from the lithium plant. While the lithium plant is still a pilot project and not producing anything, in Rio Grande the Borax business is big and workers come from all over the country to work there. It’s a a really young industrie in that area, and as I’m in general interested in what potential Bolivia has with it’s own resources it was interesting to see that the miners cooperatives in Rio Grande have success with their business.

A Borax worker enters a restaurant. I later talked to him, he is in his 50s and when he was young he was a photographer, too. I think he lived in Cochabamba, but 2 years ago he moved to Rio Grande with his 105 years old mother, because here he found well paid work. He wants to return to his home city in 3 years when he has enough money. I asked if I could take a portrait of him and his mother, but he unfortunately denied.

That’s how shops in bolivian villages look like, though the decoration / lametta from the ceiling is somewhat extraordinary.

Later that day, hitch hiking to Colcha K.More soon…


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