Focus on Mining

SDN photographers exploring global themes 

14 SDN exhibits explore mining and the toll it takes on miners and their communities  

Goran Popovic
Photo: Goran Popović from Lignite Mine, Kolubara, Serbia.

Why mining?
In looking for themes across the 1,700+ exhibits on SDN, mining keeps appearing again and again. Some of the best exhibits by some of SDN's most prestigious photographers have been on this theme. And as you will see below, there is also work by lessor known photographers that is truly stunning in its power to explore this profession. Much of this work has been featured previously by SDN. Tomasz Tomaszewski was the winner of SDN's first call for entries on the global recession for his essay on a mining district in Galicia, Poland. Garth Lenz was the winner of SDN's second call for entries on the 21st century landscape for his essay on oil extraction in the Alberta Tar Sands. Tahir Ün was SDN's June 2014 featured photographer for his exhibit on miners in Soma, Turkey, site of the horrendous accident earlier this year killing 301 miners. And Gwenn Dubourthoumieu was a recipient of an SDN/MSH Photo Fellowship for his work on copper miners in the DRC.

For the most part, these exhibits are more about miners than mining. The exhibits below explore their lives, their toil, the danger they face every day, and their families. Goran Popovic's exhibit from Serbia focuses on both man and machine, but the image we chose to feature here is of a giant piece of machinery, almost biblical in scale, as it scratches the earth's surface to extract lignite. Much of the work is done by human hands though, as you will see in the exhibits from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Columbia, the DRC, Nigeria, and India. If anything, this exhibit is a reminder that as work becomes more automated and workers the world over are displaced by computers and machines, this is one profession that still requires skill and strength and will not likely be replaced by automation any time soon.
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Focus on Mining

Tomasz Tomaszewski
by Tomasz Tomaszewski/Poland

HADES? This series of photographs was taken from March through August 2009. It was my intention to pay homage to people performing hard manual labor, the workers who once were very proud of their positions and are now loosing their jobs. Changes in global economy and recession speeds up the process ...

Alex Masi
Dead End: The Nigerian Gold Rush and Lead Poisoning Crisis>>
by Alex Masi/Nigeria

In 2008, as the price of gold began skyrocketing on global markets, a cluster of several villages in rural Zamfara, northwest Nigeria, turned into the center of a new, dangerous and uncontrollable gold rush. The artisanal mines of Zamfara were soon visited by foreign gold traders and swamped by...

Garth Lenz
Canada's Tar Sands and the True Cost of Oil>>
by Garth Lenz/Canada

The Alberta Tar Sands, the world's most environmentally damaging and toxic project, represent the world's second largest oil reserves, and are America's single largest source of oil. Since September 11th 2001, the resulting high cost and demand of oil, and the desire for "security"...

Sulfur Miners>>
by Andrés Vanegas Canosa/Indonesia

In eastern Java (Indonesia) poverty, exploitation, corruption and modern forms of slavery emerge from Mount Ijen, the same way the sulfur spills out around here, uncontrolled. Miners must carry loads, which range from 75kg to 90kg for five kilometers. They get for each kilogram of hardened yellow sulfur 900 rupees (9 cents of a US dollar) ...

The Shift in Coal Mine>>
by Tahir Ün/Turkey

Every year many industrial accidents occur in Turkey and nearly 1200 workers died last year. A portion of these deaths are in the coal mines. My project is about coal mine workers who have major risks of deadly accidents. In May 2014, the nation's worst mining accident occurred in Soma, Turkey....

The Jharia Coalfields>>
by Isabell Zipfel/India

In Jharia, in the federal state of Jharkhand, approximately 600,000 people live in the middle of one of India's biggest coal mining areas. There is nothing in it for most of them. Quite the opposite: the soil, the water and the air are now contaminated, of all things in an area that was previously ...

by Maureen Beitler/United States

Westernport is a town few people have ever heard of. It is both a real place and for me, growing up in urban Baltimore, a mythologized place of reverie from my childhood. It is the birthplace of my grandmother and as a young girl I heard endless stories about the mountains, the town, the mines and how our family survived. 

Mining in Oruro, Bolivia>>
by Theo Stroomer/Bolivia

Mining is in the blood of Bolivia. It is one of the country's oldest occupations and one of the only jobs available in some areas. It is also the country's greatest source of water pollution. During the last two years I have documented this toxic relationship, photographing the lives ...

Gwenn Dubourthemieu
The Copper Eaters>>
by Gwenn Dubourthoumieu/Democratic Republic of Congo

The "copper belt" situated in the Southeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, holds 34% of the world reserves of cobalt and 10% of the world copper reserves. In early 2011, copper prices reached its historic record: $10,000 US per ton on the London Metal Exchange. Since then, the trend...

El Bareque: Artisanal gold mining in the Colombian Pacific>>
by Steve Cagan/Colombia

The Spanish arrived in El Chocó, in the Colombian Pacific, successfully searching for gold. African slaves they brought to work the mines were the ancestors of today's Afro-Colombian population. Commercial mining ended in the 1960s, but recently high prices for gold and limited proven ...

The Ijen Miners>>
by Pietro Sferrino/Indonesia

The "Kawah Ijen" is a stratovolcano in East Java. In its crater is a lake and the crater itself is used as an open-pit mine. Every day (or rather, every night, well before sunrise) dozens of miners climb to the top of the Ijen, descend into the crater, collect 60, 70, sometimes even 80 kilos (130, 150, 170 pounds) of sulfur rocks...

Life in Quarries>>
by Javed Miandad/Bangladesh

Quarries are open pit mines used to extract building materials. It is an expanding business with huge economic profits. As labor costs and land values are quite cheap, here new pits are being excavated in a great number. The livelihood of the people working there is miserable. Their wage is ...

Bolivia Mineworkers>>
by Neca Dantas/Bolivia

Bolivia Mineworkers is an ongoing project that explores the lives and work conditions of the men, women and children. My aim is to give voice to the voiceless and to address the continual colonial labor practices and laws in regards to the dangerous work where the benefits of employment are ...

Lignite Mine Kolubara, Serbia>>
by Goran Popović/Serbia

These photographs are made in the Lignite Mine Kolubara, in west Serbia that I worked in for more than 20 years. Technology is old and it's difficult to work. Rain, wind, heat, winter, dust, noise ... day by day, night by night, is constantly our operating environment. Nevertheless, miners from Kolubara...

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About is a website for photographers, NGOs, journalists, editors, and students to create and explore documentary exhibits investigating critical issues facing the world today. Recent exhibits have explored oil workers in the Niger River Delta, male sex workers in India, Central American immigrant women during their journey north, and Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Greece.Click here to view all of the exhibits.