Vertical farming: tin mining and agro-mineros in Bolivia

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14 Scopus citations


Throughout Bolivia, collectives of small-scale miners known as ‘mining cooperatives’ have developed a reputation for cutthroat extractive practices that were shaped by neoliberal restructuring starting in the 1980s. Charting a history that starts at the turn of the twentieth century, this paper argues that cooperative mining in the tin belt of Northern Potosí has emerged as a vertical instantiation of small-holder farming practices that migrated, along with miners themselves, from surrounding indigenous ayllus. In the subterranean, however, these practices interacted with the legacies of tin mining, which was characterized by labor hierarchies that corresponded with vertical variation in ore quality. New social striations crystallized as small-holder farming customs settled into the subterranean structure, creating sharp social differentiation across these subsoil ‘family farms.’ The class composition of mining cooperatives at the national level has been shaped by these entangled underground histories, with implications for the country’s economic and environmental futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)820-840
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Peasant Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 6 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


  • agro-mineros
  • Bolivia
  • Mining cooperatives
  • peasant agriculture
  • Potosí
  • small-scale mining


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