Black World by Erberto Zani

It is a dark world that millions of people are forced to work in, made of mines, dust and fear. Characterized by oppression, violence and trampled human rights; where the presence of enormous deposits of minerals transform into a curse for the people through the illegality caused by games of power and corrupt economies.
Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Rubaya, 2013: Nyatura’s militias prepare to escort a convoy full of coltan, from Rubaya to the close coutry of Rwanda.

It is a dark world that millions of people are forced to work in, made of mines, dust and fear. Characterized by oppression, violence and trampled human rights; where the presence of enormous deposits of minerals transform into a curse for the people through the illegality caused by games of power and corrupt economies.

Black World is a long term project, started in 2012 and still in progress, focuses on realities in several countries with different kind of illegally extracted minerals.

In India, where the population of Bokohapadi is forced to steal its own coal found underground. This, because of industrial-scaled extraction projects run by government-aided companies, categorically without acknowledging or compensating the rightful owners of the land.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the words “Republic” and “Democratic” sound like the countless scars inflicted on its civil population, politics is administered on the basis of corruption and favoritism. A country where the absence of government, the division of power between different military groups and the intrusion of shameless and unethical foreign interests have caused a complete military arming of the economy and a real marketing of violence. In this chaos the natural resources, particularly coltan, become oxygen for the smouldering embers of war.

In Colombia, in a remote area of Antioquia, a community of gold miners has been struggling to fight for its own existence for years, asking the government to legalize the mine. This request amidst the dangers of working underground with inadequate equipment and under definite threat of being killed by paramilitary groups.

In Burkina Faso, where the search for gold is a survival activity, carried out without any protections in saturated dust environments, and where accidents, given the constant danger that the walls collapse, are on the agenda. 

In Philippines, where tax on extractions are very high and people risks everday their life inside tunnel full of water. 

India, Jharkhand’s region, Bokahapadi, 2012: methane and carbon monoxide emitted from the ground, rich in coal.

India, Jharkhand’s region, Bokahapadi, 2012: Bokahapadi’s inhabitants illegally collect pieces of coal to use in their homes or to sell on the black market. The whole area has belonged to them for generations, but big extraction companies have intruded it “legally”, forcing the population to steal its own coal.

India, Jharkhand’s region, Bokahapadi, 2012: Lots of children are involved in the phases of collection and transportation of coal.
Used primarily for cooking, heating, and to earn a little money by selling it, the coal monopolizes every single activity of Bokahapadi’s inhabitants.
Everything else is not important, including school education.

Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Mudere mine, 2013: miners rest during the digging of a new tunnel. Once the tunnel reaches the depth of 20 meters, it will be shored up with simple planks of wood: collapses are frequent, especially during the rain season.

Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Mudere mine, 2013: extraction of raw manganese that contains coltan. Everyday hundreds of people extract, using crude tools, tons of material from Mudere mine.

Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Rubaya, 2013: miners arrive at Rubaya, a small mineral outpost from where twice a week a truck full of precious minerals leaves, headed for Rwanda. Every phase of extraction and transport is controlled by the Nyatura’s militia.

Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Rubaya, 2013: Nyatura’s militias prepare to escort a convoy full of coltan, from Rubaya to the close coutry of Rwanda.

Democratic Republic of Congo, North Kivu, Rubaya, 2013: the trucks quickly cross the border into Rwanda, where the minerals become “clean and Rwandese” and then sold to multinational companies.

Colombia, Antioquia region, Carrizal, 2015: the mine has a vertical structure. A labyrinth of steps and tunnels that become increasingly narrow when descending. The steps, that descend to a depth of 500 meters, are slimy and slippery from the mud. Although a tube pumps in air, the environment is, at times, suffocating. The water that spills out from the walls helps to cool the tunnels down, but has to be constantly pumped out to avoid sudden flooding.
The only light is by torches attached to the miners’ helmets. There is only one way to enter the extraction zone. There aren’t any alternative safety exits. A sudden flooding in March 2015 caused the death of eight miners.

Colombia, Antioquia region, Carrizal, 2015: at a depth of 260m rocks are dug, searching for gold. The rocks are put in sacks weighing 75kg when full, and are carried out on shoulders.

Colombia, Antioquia region, Carrizal, 2015: old machines are used for fragment rocks in mud. From the dust will be extract the gold, using mercury.

Colombia, Antioquia region, Carrizal, 2015: mercury is added to the mud, required to blend the gold. A highly toxic element, especially due to the gas it emits, seriously endangering the miners’ health. In Carrizal every phase of extraction is carried out with bare hands, without any form of protection.

Burkina Faso, somewhere in Guongo’s area, 2017: miners sift the ground with metal detectors. In Burkina Faso, the small mines are many, all in remote areas. Like in Goungo desert area. To get there and avoid unpleasant situations, it is imperative to find a reliable contact that works inside and knows how to get to the excavation areas, explaining him the reason of my visit.

Burkina Faso, somewhere in Guongo’s area, 2017: a miner, climbing only by ropes and the force of their arms, goes outside the mine after several hours of work. Mines are simple holes in the ground, no stairs, no shoring, no light.

Burkina Faso, somewhere in Guongo’s area, 2017: a miner shows the crude tools used for dig inside the tunnels.

Burkina Faso, somewhere in Guongo’s area, 2017: the extracted material, taken on the surface, is washed and crushed by hand with the help of old mortars with pestle until to obtain golden dust. This work is mainly done by children when they are not used in the tightest tunnels.

Philippines, Camarines Norte, Paracale, 2018: A.G., 57 years old, is ready for his second turn, of two hours, at the bottom of a compressor mine near the jungle mining area of Paracale. When is under the water he cannot see nothing and he just fill up sacks, by hands, with part of rock and mud from borders. Vertical tunnels are deep 20meters.

Philippines, Camarines Norte, Paracale, 2018: miners sifts the mud extracted searching part of gold.

Philippines, Camarines Norte, Paracale, 2018: to separate the mercury from the gold, a melting pot is used with a temperature of over 1.000C.

Philippines, Camarines Norte, Paracale, 2018: the owner of land where miners working, shows two pieces of gold ready for be exchange in pesos, local money.

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Dodho Magazine accepts submissions from emerging and professional photographers from around the world.
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