"Kyrgyzstan Miners"
Locals call them “Apache” for their ever-soiled black faces and the recklessness by working in abandoned, unequipped coal mines, where their lives are always in danger. But as one of them said, they “go down there because there are no jobs on the surface.”Hundreds of families in remote mountainous areas in southern Kyrgyzstan depend for living on abandoned Soviet coal mines that dot mountain slopes. Citizens are left to their own devices in this poor ex-Soviet mountainous nation of five million that has been in political chaos over the past few years, including the forcible ouster of former President Askar Akayev in March 2005. In Kok Janak, many families survive by working coal in old mines equipped only with picks, worn-out helmets and headlights. Some miners bring along their teenage sons. It’s easier for young boys to move around narrow mines, bringing to the surface bags with coal. Each mine is worked by a six-seven-strong brigade. If among brigade members there is an experienced professional miner who used to work here during the Soviet time _ when work was mechanized and organized _ then they take safety precautions. If not, there is no safety. Accidents _ methane poisonings and mine collapses _ are frequents here, miners say. But none keeps the count. The coal is carried to the surface in tarpaulin bags. They are then loaded onto donkeys and then the entire men-and-donkey company descends by steep mountainous paths.Each bag, that contains about 70 kilograms of coal, sells for about 3 dollars. Miners make about 8 – 10 dollars a day.

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