La Mina…

September 5, 2010

Not long after leaving our lakeside camp spot, we were back on dirt and the day was fantastic.  We began by cruising right along the edge of the lake, taking in how big it actually was.  The road then led us up and out of the lake valley and we streamed along in wide open ranch land and desert-y landscape.  The hills were present, but everything was fairly firm and graded relatively well, so it was a whole day on dirt where I didn’t have to push my bike once.  Man it was awesome!  I felt happy and strong and back in action.  I have also discovered the wonder of Tang and I am not ashamed to admit it.  Paired with a little salt, it’s a homemade Gatorade and I stay much more hydrated during the day.

After a good chunk of riding we dropped down into the small town of Casas Blancas.  Immediately we sought out some supplies for dinner and some water, planning to continue on our way.  We approached a group of men sitting outside a liquor/snack store and I asked if they might have a source of water we could use, adding “no tomar”, which indicates that we don’t plan to drink it and any hose or faucet water will be fine.  I was then taken around the back where the kind lady of the house interrupted her laundry routine to fill our 6 liter bladder to the max.  Thanking then, we moved around to the neighboring street and proceeded to filter the water into our water bottles, a process we have to do several times a day.

During this, we were approached by a man speaking excellent English asking the usual questions.  He warned us of cartels up ahead, but insisted they would want nothing to do with us  and proceeded to explain a bit about himself.  He had grown up in Chihuahua and started working in the mines around the age of 16.  Moving through the ranks over the years, he now is the head boss at a mine they were in the process of setting up a few kilometers away.  As with all mining operations, there was a camp being constructed nearby as well for workers, visiting geologists, drilling experts, etc., and Angel invited us to stay for the night.  We were pretty keen to keep going, but with the offer of a cold beer on the table, we decided to hang out for a bit.  The rest of the night is history.  We tied a good one on with the towns folk/mine employees and stayed in the camp for not one but two days.  With all meals being provided (unlimited cereal and milk!), beds and warm showers, we settled in pretty comfortably for a bit.

The following day I went with Angel to the location of the mine to check it out.  We drove out a ways, climbing effortlessly in the huge truck over hills and switchbacks that would have taken us the better part of a day to traverse on our bikes.  So far they have dug about 1,100 meters into the mountain, which is about 15% of the way they plan to go.  Slowly but surely, over the next 20 years, that mountain will be coming down layer by layer.

What happens after that?” I asked.

Then we plant some trees on it.  The Environmental Consultant came by and told us we’d have to plant pine trees.  They are going to import them from Afghanistan, a special kind that will grow well here.

I proceeded with more questions about the future of the town, grasping how much things were about to change in a big way for the people of Casas Blancas.  New schools, new roads, new funds pouring in.  For 20 years at least.  The mine is called La Pitarilla and is backed by the Canadian mining company Silver Standard.  Silver, copper, zinc and gold will be extracted through the calculated process.

After the mini mine tour, we went to go see some of Angel’s horses, some of which have serious papers to boast.  For all you horse fans out there, I got to see the grand-daughter pony of the 1979 world champion race horse, Dash for Cash.  What a day, let me tell you.

After a few more meals with the miners, and another good night’s rest, we packed up our things once again and headed south.

Heading out to the mine...

Just a hole in a rock wall, really. Of which they will extract some 20 million over the next 20 years...

This is the view from Angel's office. Not bad...

What every boss may or may not wish to have in their own office...

Just to remind you we are still in the desert...

Part of the newly constructed mine camp...

The man behind all the action and our gracious host, Angel...

If you are running for office this year, you may want to consider the seriousness a mustache brings to the situation...

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3 Responses to “La Mina…”

  1. Shane Dizz said

    This is Kevin and I. Don’t try and run against us.

  2. Joani said

    Hey Kel
    Have been loving your trip… the pix are just unbelievable, cretainly worthy of Nat’l Geographic !
    Tanks so much for sharing this amazing trip with us Stay well and be safe !!
    You will never regret this adventure |Love A Joani

  3. kellymariedonlan said

    we see the baby jesus everywhere and think of you everytime bab. sending love and dirty gringo hugs xxx

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