On The Coal Face

Authored by Yang Shaobin, a former policeman from the heart of China’s coal country, ‘On the Coal Face’ provides a rare and harrowing expose of life in the most dangerous mines in the world – where one man dies every working hour. Into the bowels of the earth in one of China’s state-owned coal mines, where the air is thick with coal dust – inevitably it will end up coating the lungs of every miner, causing emphysema, silicosis, anthracosis or black-lung disease to name but a few. Many are less fortunate – flooding, collapsing mine shafts, even the dry coal dust igniting into fireballs – all make working these mines a daily dice with death. The lucky ones (nearly a thousand a year) receive a life-saving operation to literally clean out their lungs – we pick up the story with Shao Lun in the Coal Miner’s Sanatorium. Finally we turn to the illegal mines in China’s industrial heartlands where the majority of accidents and deaths occur, it feels more like a cemetery by the day – a land inhabited by ghosts – each mine shaft standing over the blackened soil like an unmarked gravestone. Beneath men toil in tunnels, hundreds of miles of dark and damp, where their deaths go unnoticed.

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Production Details
Locations: China,
Role: Writer, Series Producer TX: 1 X 11minutes: Al Jazeera English, People & Power May 2008
Distribution: Contact Oliver Steeds