Coal power: miners pay in blood for China's economic miracle
A new film, To the Light, exposes the cost in human health and lives of China's coal-fired power boom
There is a saying in China about the coal miners who go underground into the bowels of the earth to earn their living - that they only become human again when they come back to the surface.
After watching New York University Journalism School graduate Yuanchen Liu's stark and unflinching debut documentary, To the Light at the recent Margaret Mead Festival at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, it is not hard to see why China's miners feel that they have left the human world behind when they descend into their cramped coal tunnels for shifts of backbreaking labor that can last seven hours at a stretch.
The visually lyrical and heartbreaking film, which won the Mead's prestigious award this year for best in show, follows three miners both below and above the ground, and documents the price that they and their families have paid for their participation in what is arguably the world's deadliest profession.
Coal mining has always been dangerous. Scores die each year in mining accidents in the US. But this figure pales besides the estimated 20,000 people a year (according to the film) who perish in accidents in China's primitive mines.
The government's official numbers are lower, but independent observers like Robin Munro, a human-rights activist at the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin, say that the true toll is routinely under-reported by mine owners and provincial officials who often have a personal financial stake in these lucrative operations and the prosperity they bring to the rural communities where the mines are located.
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Font: The Greens network/The Ecologist