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Illegal coal mining in India and Mexico and the end of mines in the USA

The failed rescue operation at the El Pinabete mine has highlighted the dangers miners face every day in dozens of small, unregulated mines in Mexico’s coalfields. They are employed without contracts, sent to work without proper protection and supervision by the labour inspectorate. However, this is often the only option for them to support their families.

The state of Jharkhand in India is a hotbed of illegal labour for male and female miners extracting coal in abandoned tunnels and shafts of closed coal mines. Dangerous fires are also breaking out in the collapse-prone tunnels, filled with toxic gases that make breathing difficult. Home-made coal is used to make coke, with daily earnings of less than US$3.

The shift away from coal for climate reasons in the USA is hitting indigenous people in the Navaho community in the state of New Mexico. Families are losing their jobs in mines and power plants and leaving in search of sources of income. Shifting away from coal poses challenges in every aspect of local life and business – from students changing schools through reduced catering traffic to dwindling ash supplies for concrete producers. In south-west Virginia, the economy after mine closures is expected to be boosted by casinos. In August this year, the Bristol Casino, which employs mainly local residents, generated almost US$14.3 million in revenue. Profits from the gambling tax are to be used locally, for education, transport and public safety.

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