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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

Smoke comes out of a drain along the main road in Jharia, hinting at the alarming levels of underground fires in area. A few years ago, fires damaged the Jharia railway station, leading to its eventual closure.

Activists claim that the mining company in charge of the coal operations are allowing the fires to persist. The company is said to do this because the fires force residents off of their land for safety reasons, thus opening more prospective areas for mining.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

Miners push around 350 kilograms of on a bicycle up a hillside.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

A young girl miner observes her colleagues. Many local children are forced to work pilfering coal from state-owned mines in the area.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

A miner takes a break overlooking the state-run open pit coal mine in Jharia. Miners have to manually carry large loads of coal from the bottom of the mine to the top, where it is delivered for processing.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

A boy carrying a heavy load of coal over his head in Jharia. Many local children are forced to work pilfering coal from state-owned mines in the area.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

Miners have to manually carry large loads of coal from the bottom of the mine to the top, where it is delivered for processing.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

A female miner balances raw coal stones on her head. The work is grueling and harmful to the health of the workers.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

Smoke from underground fires rise in the state-run open pit mine near Jharia.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
23 Nov 2014

Miners have to manually carry large loads of coal from the bottom of the mine to the top, where it is delivered for processing.

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Mining the Inferno: India's 100 Year ...
Jharia
By Sanjay Pandey
14 Nov 2014

Roughly 700,000 people live immediately above a series of underground fires that have been smoldering in the town of Jharia for a century, come next year. The government of India is, quite literally, playing with fire.

“State-run coal firm BCCL is deliberately stoking the fire so that they can have more and more of the area declared unsafe to live in and get a broader area in which to continue its mining operations,” says activist Ashok Agarwal of Jharia Coalfield Bachao Samiti, an organization formed by locals to fight the government’s dictatorial policies.

The area is rich in coal and, to cut costs, much of the mining in the area is done by opencast methods. Opencast mining is more profitable than deep mining since the costs of excavation are low and productivity is significantly higher. In Jharia, some 270km from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand province, coal is mined everywhere. People armed with shovels dig their way into rat-hole mines near villages and dwellings, roads and even railway tracks.

Bokalpari is one of the many areas affected by the perennial fires in Jharia: no less than 67 have been raging in the belly of the earth. Mining in the area is a source of revenue and livelihood. But with the advent of modern machines, a majority of the manual workforce has become redundant. For villagers like Shamim Khan, mining has become more of a curse. Shamim used to work as driver’s assistant, but is currently unemployed.  

“I haven’t had a job for around 5 years now," he said. "When my forefathers came here decades ago hoping to earn a good living, they left their land and property behind in Bihar. Now, we cannot even go and reclaim that land.”

Coal-seam fires annually spew around 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making India the fourth biggest producer of greenhouse gas of the world. In Jharia, mining started back in 1896. After the nationalization of all coalmines in 1971, many were handed over to the state-owned Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL). But the desire to produce cheaper and cheaper coal prompted BCCL to depart from the standard practice of underground or tunnel mining in 1974.

“Coal-seam fires are nothing new in the coal belt. But they became a threat after BCCL opened up the mines,” says Agarwal.

The underground fires in Jharia will be a century old next year, but the government seems to be doing little to douse the flames.

“The BCCL is digging the fire out as part of the master plan,” says T K Lahiri, a managing director of BCCL.

Though mining companies are officially meant to fill abandoned mines with sand, anyone can see that the pits are left unattended. According to local residents, the leftover coal in these pits then comes into contact with oxygen and catches fire. The government’s plan of relocating residents of fire-affected areas has not yet materialized due to resistance from the people and officials’ half-hearted approach to the issue. So far, around 1100 families out of 2500 have been relocated to a township in Belgaria. Those who have moved to the township complain of a lack of basic amenities and job opportunities. This has prompted many to return to their fire-ravaged villages.

“Since there is no source of employment, I have to travel 13km on foot to reach Bokapahari. I know people here so it is easier for me to get a job,” says Shamim, 45, whose two sons have migrated to Delhi where they work as daily wage laborers.

As for those who decided to stay on, a different kind of social problem has emerged. Now, boys and girls living in fire-affected parts of Jharia find it difficult to find a match for themselves. Akhtari Bano, 75, has three marriageable sons and two daughters, but is not able to find anyone suitable for them.  

“It is not that the proposals don’t come at all. But when people come and see that we’re sitting on the lap of a burning fire and that smoke is always emanating from our houses, they run away,” she says. “The government might be having fun playing with fire. But why play with our lives?”

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North Korea in Color 005
By Ulrik Pedersen
12 Jun 2014

This truck runs on firewood and/or coal, due to a lack of gasoline which has to be imported. The government has limited access to dollars with which to import goods such as gasoline.

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Germany's Black Gold Threatens Villages
Brandenburg
By Isabell Zipfel
03 Jun 2014

Despite Germany’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation, the country has been quietly ramping up its production of brown coal in recent years. As mining companies buy up land and dig vast open-pit mines, natural areas are being desecrated and inhabitants of nearby villages are being forced from their homes. Now, residents in nine villages in the eastern state of Brandenburg fear for the future of their homes, as the very land their houses are built on is being bought-up by Swedish mining company Vattenfall.

Brown coal is considered by many to be the black gold of the 21st century. After oil, coal is the world’s most important energy source, which makes mining it a highly lucrative business. Germany is the biggest brown coal producer in world, far ahead of China and the United States. In 2013, they produced over 162 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from brown coal. Currently, Germany’s coal production is at a 25-year high and shows no sign of slowing down. Some coal industry experts are even calling the recent surge in production a “brown coal renaissance”.

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Sardinia : The Last Coal Mine in Italy
Nuraxi Figus
By Andrea Falletta
10 Apr 2014

The fate of the coal miners of Nuraxi Figus, Italy is more uncertain as their mine is on the verge of closing. The economy of the village relies on the Carbosulcis mine, which employs 500 people, but in the last decades, the coal mining industry in Europe has been declining. Some regions which have relied on mining now have to reinvent their economy to prevent their population from falling into poverty.

In August 2012 the miners occupied the mine, during a week after officials had announced it would be closed, although so far it has remained open.

Almost two years after the strike began, the demand for coal has collapsed. At Carbosulcis, the production has almost stopped. The mine, which has been opened for 40 years and costs 40 millions Euros to maintain each year, is expected to close in the coming years.

As required by European Union directives, there will be a gradual reduction of coal production down to zero from 2014 to 2018. The second phase, from 2018 to 2027, will include conversion of staff and facilities of the mine.

The village of Nuraxi Figus, which has survived thanks to the coal production, is stuck in an obsolete development model. The coal extracted is very poor quality and has a very low value on the market because of the high levels of sulphur it contains. Their only client is Enel, the Italian electric utility, which buys the mineral below the market rate. As a result, the mine receives public subsidies to cover the losses. This model is not economically viable as it maintains the population in low paid jobs in only one industry and that has prevented other sectors from establishing in the region. The workers and their families suffer the consequences of this system. They are also affected by the pollution from mining in the region

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
18 Mar 2014

A coal fire rages in an open coal mine in Jharia, India.

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India's Black Curse
India
By breuph
15 Mar 2014

Although India's soil bears a lot of coal, it has not contributed to the wealth of the common people in the region, neither to the people directly involved in the process of mining. This photo essay deals with problems inherited by the black gold: Coal fires causing diseases, relocation of close-by inhabitants for the expansion of open-cast mines, child labour due to lack of interest of the government in this issue and poor working conditions in general.

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Mining the inferno- india's 100-year-...
Jharia, Jharkhand
By adrian
09 Mar 2014

Children play in the streets of Belgharia, a township that has been set to up accommodate residents of Jharia displaced by the fire.

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Occupy Maidan 21
Kiev, Ukraine
By Daniel Van Moll
04 Feb 2014

Even though coal and wood is the only source of heat behind the barricades around the occupied Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in Kiev, Ukraine, many men are persisting outside at temperatures around -15°C for weeks.

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Musi Neri - A History of Belgium's It...
Marcinelle, Belgium
By Filippo Biagianti
18 Jul 2012

Migration to the post-war Belgium originated with the establishment of an agreement between the Italian and Belgian governments on 23 June 1946 in Rome, and the signing of a treaty that led them to "exchange" Italian workforce with Belgian coal.

To understand why this agreement we should look at Italy and Belgium as they were at the end of World War II. In Italy, enormous material damage, with two million unemployed and some areas of the country was in total misery. In the mines of Wallonia in Belgium, the lack of manpower curbed the activities of coal mining and therefore energy production: to increase production they used the prisoners of war, German soldiers, Hungarians and even Russians, then, the agreement of 1946, 50,000 arrive Italians workers, with their work these men will allow the Italian government to buy the Belgian coal. Thanks to Italian emigrants, the production of the mines went up to 6-7 million tons per year. This also allowed the steel and metallurgical industries to increase their production.

The Italian-Belgian agreement provided the transfer of 50,000 workers under age 35 in good health, for a 12 month contract as miner, in exchange for 200 kg of coal per day guaranteed to Italy.

The emigrants embarked every Tuesday night at the station in Milan and underwent a medical examination on the same train, where they had to sign the work contracts. They arrived on Thursday afternoon in Basel, divided according to the mine in which they were intended to work and were then transported to the "cellar", the same barracks where they had been held prisoners of war. Sometimes began to work the next day.

The Marcinelle tragedy, with the deaths of hundreds of Italians in a coal mine in 1956, marks, even symbolically, the end of Italian emigration in Belgium. A part of the immigrant population in Belgium will stabilize, but since the disaster there will be no more emigration of Italians to the mining areas.

This documentary tells the stories of some of these men, still in their twenties, they left our country and their province in search of a future and a better life.

TEXTLESS NSV VERSION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Port Gabtoli (6 of 7)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
06 Apr 2012

Gabtoli is a small domestic port in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Here, raw construction materials for both industrial and residential developments comes from different parts of Bangladesh. Among the raw materials are coal, stones, bricks, sand and metal. Approximately 20,000 workers labor in the port day and night, mostly originating from rural areas of Bangladesh leaving their families behind. They earn less then $4 a day to maintain their family and are literally deprived of health, education and other basic facilities.

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Port Gabtoli (5 of 7)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
06 Apr 2012

Gabtoli is a small domestic port in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Here, raw construction materials for both industrial and residential developments comes from different parts of Bangladesh. Among the raw materials are coal, stones, bricks, sand and metal. Approximately 20,000 workers labor in the port day and night, mostly originating from rural areas of Bangladesh leaving their families behind. They earn less then $4 a day to maintain their family and are literally deprived of health, education and other basic facilities.

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Port Gabtoli (4 of 7)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
06 Apr 2012

Gabtoli is a small domestic port in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Here, raw construction materials for both industrial and residential developments comes from different parts of Bangladesh. Among the raw materials are coal, stones, bricks, sand and metal. Approximately 20,000 workers labor in the port day and night, mostly originating from rural areas of Bangladesh leaving their families behind. They earn less then $4 a day to maintain their family and are literally deprived of health, education and other basic facilities.

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Port Gabtoli (7 of 7)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By Khandaker Azizur Rahman
06 Apr 2012

Gabtoli is a small domestic port in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Here, raw construction materials for both industrial and residential developments comes from different parts of Bangladesh. Among the raw materials are coal, stones, bricks, sand and metal. Approximately 20,000 workers labor in the port day and night, mostly originating from rural areas of Bangladesh leaving their families behind. They earn less then $4 a day to maintain their family and are literally deprived of health, education and other basic facilities.

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Port Gabtoli
Dhaka, Bangladesh
By U.S. Editor
05 Apr 2012

Gabtoli is a small domestic port in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Here, raw construction materials for both industrial and residential developments comes from different parts of Bangladesh. Among the raw materials are coal, stones, bricks, sand and metal. Approximately 20,000 workers labor in the port day and night, mostly originating from rural areas of Bangladesh leaving their families behind. They earn less then $4 a day to maintain their family and are literally deprived of health, education and other basic facilities.