Striking Photos Reveal Harsh World of China's Unregulated Mines

By Ned Kelly, August 5, 2019

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Since 2004, freelance photographer Kuang Huimin has been documenting the lives of miners.

“In China, many little mines are located in the convergence of urban and rural areas,” Kuang tells us. “Driven by substantial profits, a great number of private property owners are involved in mining, resulting in the need for manual workers. The people who can bear such a heavy physical labor are all farmers coming from remote mountainous areas of poverty.”

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“These photos were taken in some old mining areas in southern Hunan province. The miners here come mainly from mountainous rural areas of Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Hubei. Due to the chaotic mining regulation system, mine disasters are a frequent occurrence in China. I wanted to use my camera to record the conditions of this special group. I want to help miners escape their bad working environment and poor life.”

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“Some little mines I photograph are illegal. The mining conditions are poor without necessary security measures, and landslides and floods occur frequently. Some miners suffocate to death in the mine. They die far away from home. At the beginning of my work, they couldn't understand my motivation. On account of my frequent presence, and the fact I never affected their work and life, I gradually enjoyed the trust of the mine managers and miners.”

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“Many miners regard me as a portrait painter. I give them their pictures as presents so that they can send them home to let their relatives see the images of working outside and hardship. They say the pictures I take are the most real of their lives.”


[All images via Kuang Huimin]

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