Mining represents a Devil’s bargain for Bolivia, providing the miners subsistence in return for their health and severe damage to the environment.
Darkness envelopes the main entrance of the San José Mine.
Miners generally smoke, chew coca, and drink alcohol before beginning work in the mine.
They don't have regular access to machinery; most of what the miners collect comes from pounding and searching.
During a typical shift they will work for 8-12 hours in the dark underground.
The average life span of a miner is 40, with millions of Bolivian men sacrificing their lives to pull rock from the earth. Still, Bolivia remains the poorest country in South America.
Miners sacrifice a llama during the C'halla holiday for good fortune during the coming year.
Water pollution from the mines is rampant and virtually unregulated.
Garbage dumped from the Huanuni mine flows south, collecting along the riverbed in communities downstream.
The area has been declared an environmental disaster region and the government is beginning efforts to clean it up.
Theo Stroomer is a photographer based in Denver, Colorado. To view more of his work, check out his website at http://www.theostroomer.com/.
*Share your photo essays and ideas with our Photo Essay Editor at Gabriel.Sanchez@BuzzFeed.com
We'd love to hear from you and share your unique photo-vision with the world!