Supporting accessories are required for the workers

Dampen the dust and cool the drill bits. They’re eight feet long, clattering on the rock like steel spears. I ask a gray smudge how long he’s been drilling. “Twelve years.” His voice sounds brittle in my ringing head; for me, twelve minutes would be enough. Silver ore is ground to dust, loosed from barren rock in tanks of foaming water and chemicals, and recovered as ash gray sludge. Refineries turn this into silver grains, then gleaming bars the size of bread loaves.   It’s dazzling, this metallurgical baking. A silver ingot starts out radiant orange—liq¬uid fire bubbling in an iron mold. It cools to red, hardening, then hits the refinery floor a spluttering incandescent bar. Blisters mar it: too much oxygen. A plunge into a cruci¬ble, some charcoal to draw off oxygen, and the silver pours into another mold, … Continue reading »