Tag Archives: mining

Politics and a Struggling Coal Town

A horse grazes in front of the smoke stacks of a coal refinery in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila.

A horse grazes in front of the smoke stacks of a coal refinery in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila.

Mexican politics is often one giant quagmire of corruption, mistrust, and nepotism, the likes of which are hard to understand for anyone growing up in a country with a stable political climate. The average Mexican has next to no faith in their government, and decades of deception, embezzlement, and greed has done little to change this. And so in true form, the upcoming elections in the summer of 2018 are set to be a contentious and scandal-filled race in which working-class Mexicans will be prodded and coerced to vote for candidates who will likely do very little to help them once in office.

Cristina Auerbach, an activist for miner’s rights, stands for a portrait in front of newly constructed memorial crosses for deceased miners in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila.

A man looks at the monument for the 65 miners who died in the Pasta de Concho mining disaster in front of the Mexico City stock exchange.

As an outsider who is just starting to learn the complexities of Mexico and it’s political system, I am always eager to learn more about the country I now call home. So when Buzzfeed News asked me to travel to Coahuila, a northern state bordering the US, I said yes immediately. I won’t try and explain all the complexities of this story because the journalist Karla Zabludovsky did a better job than I ever could, but it is definitely worth reading.

Set against the backdrop of a failing coal mining town, Nueva Rosita, and a disaster that claimed the lives of 65 miners, this story has all the political intrigue that one might expect from Mexico. Plus I was able to shoot purely stills for this, which after the back pain from carrying video equipment around for the last several years, is a nice change!

Elvira Martinez sits for a portrait inside her father’s home in Palau, Coahuila. Her husband, Jorge Vladimir Muñoz, was killed in the Pasta de Conchos mining disaster that claimed the lives of 65 miners.

Benito Rosales lost two of his brothers, Amado and Juan Manuel Rosales, in the Pasta de Conchos mining disaster that claimed the lives of 65 others.

Two miners are seen silhouetted in the doorway of an abandoned mining structure in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila.

Memorial crosses for the 65 miners who died in the Pasta de Concho mining disaster stand n Nueva Rosita, Coahuila.

You can read the full story here 

Posted in Blog, Central America, Environmental, Mexico Also tagged , , , |

Underwater Gold Miners in Southern Leyte

I spent a month in Leyte last year while working on a story about independent (illegal) gold miners in the Philippines. When I heard about the magnitude of typhoon Haiyan, and that it had devastated Leyte’s largest city, Tacloban, I immediately thought of these guys.

I recently heard from a friend who used to live on Leyte, and still kept in contact with some of her old friends. Many have lost their families, and I fear the worst for the gold miners I met.

Working along the gold rich coasts of the island, these miners spend up to 10 hours a day dredging the sea floor for ore using only their hands and empty rice bags. They make their own goggles from coconuts and polished glass bottles, and most wear only flip flops as diving shoes. Their air comes through thin plastic tubes which is pumped from a small compressor on shore. Any tangle or kink in the lines would mean drowning.

The gold they find is extracted from the ore at handmade washing stations along the beach, and then sold to small-scale local buyers. From here the gold leaves the island and is taken to larger buyers who smelt the gold into disks or bricks of pure gold before shipping the product to the gold markets of Manila. For their part in the operation the divers will see very little of the profit, and despite finding gold nearly every day, are only just able to support their families on what they make.

As much as I would like to hope, I think it would be naive to imagine none of these people have been affected by the Haiyan disaster. These people had a rough life to begin with, and it has gotten much, much harder. They were extremely welcoming to me, and once things settle down I plan to make a trip to see what their situation is and how I can help.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

Thin air tubes are connected to a compressor. Mining also takes place in the ocean and though extremely dangerous, workers use this air system to breathe rather than more expensive scuba gear.

An underwater miner prepares to dive. The miners often make their own goggles out of wood and polished glass bottles.

An underwater miner prepares to dive. The miners often make their own goggles out of wood and polished glass bottles.

Two senior miners monitor the diving, watching the air tubes for kinks or signs of trouble. Since the divers are weighted with large boulders any failure in the air system can be fatal.

Two senior miners monitor the diving, watching the air tubes for kinks or signs of trouble. Since the divers are weighted with large boulders any failure in the air system can be fatal.

A miner hauls unprocessed rock from the seabed onto the beach.

A miner hauls unprocessed rock from the seabed onto the beach.

A boy washes crushed rock to separate the sand and mud from the gold dust.

A boy washes crushed rock to separate the sand and mud from the gold dust.

Liquid mercury is used to separate the gold from the sand and mud. Extremely poisonous, the use of mercury for mining is illegal in most countries, including the Philippines.

Liquid mercury is used to separate the gold from the sand and mud. Extremely poisonous, the use of mercury for mining is illegal in most countries, including the Philippines.

The raw gold is melted in ceramic bowls to solidify it into circular disks in a refinery on the neighbouring island of Mindanao.

The raw gold is melted in ceramic bowls to solidify it into circular disks in a refinery on the neighbouring island of Mindanao.

A disk of pure gold, ready to be sold.

A disk of pure gold, ready to be sold.

A low-level buyer weighs the day’s gold. When he has collected enough to make the trip profitable, he will transport the gold to the neighbouring island of Mindanao for refining.

A low-level buyer weighs the day’s gold. When he has collected enough to make the trip profitable, he will transport the gold to the neighbouring island of Mindanao for refining.

A gold market in Chinatown, Manila. Some of the gold from Pinot An makes its way to the nation’s capital, though the vast majority is smuggled out of the country.

A gold market in Chinatown, Manila. Some of the gold from Pinot An makes its way to the nation’s capital, though the vast majority is smuggled out of the country.

Posted in Blog, Disaster, Philippines Also tagged , , , , , |