Panning people in the coal field

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Two persons, three or four large iron pot, stirring shovel, sieve salvage. Such husband and wife, father and son, brother partnership coal washing is a unique scene in coal washing mine industry. And the most primitive manual labor is gradually faded into history with the gradual automation of mining.

There is a large opencast coal mine in Helan mountainous areas, Ningxia, producing high-quality “Taixi anthracite”, which is from washing a large number of coal gangue and slag. Nearly a decade, a large number of people gathered here to pan the Taixi “black gold” in indigenous way. 

Next to the slag stacks in the coal washing plant are working coal washing workers, most of whom come from Sichuan, Henan, Ningxia and other places, folks are partners, each folks have their own territory. Coal washing water is the waste water from the surrounding bathhouse. These large and small washing pots are the remnants landscape in the coal washing mine industry.

Mine shacks in the opencast mine, workers eat and sleep here, in front of the stove is the cooking place.

Ma Ruilin (32 years old), Yang Yanhua (27 years old), this couple are Hui nationality. Their fellow villagers told them that they could make money here. So they came here with their two sons. At first, the boss didn’t want to employ them because they were all green hands. But in the end, they stayed by the ability to endure hardship. Here, coal washing partnership as husband and wife, father and son, and brothers is common.

two sons of Ma Ruilin and Yang Yanhua

Women workers were flattening the mine. 

The older people who had no strength to wash coal were responsible for "flattening coal". Generally speaking, such a bucket of coal weighs 1.7 ton. Workers need to wash more than 150 pots to wash out the fancy coal, and then the boss pays the workers RMB 450 per bucket of Washed coal.

The new workers in the coal washing coal field. Coal washing is not a career, but just a mean to earn money to support life. 

This is Tian Jinliang and his wife from Haiyuan County, Ningxia. They had worked in the coal field for eight years. Tian Jinliang, 65 years old, Hui nationality people, he said, he feared sick, fear his son go to school, build house, marry, weddings and funerals, if so, they need the money from this job to support the family. They didn’t want to work at other places for fear of arrears paid, but they could get their paid every two days here. 

Once a time, he also wanted to make big bucks, he went outside and built roads with a partner, but finally he failed to get his money and wages, so he had to come back to wash coal.

Iron pots, used in the coal plant.

Men and women did the same work in the coal washing field, repeating the same action: filling water into the pots, stirring the shovels, and filtering out the coal.

24-year-old Ma Chenglong, there was a clear mark of summer on his back.

Panning cleaned coal

The reflection of the washed cleaned coal is just like a pyramid. One partner need to wash nearly 200 pots coal slag to get a bucket of high prices cleaned coal.

Wang Fumin, a coal washing worker from Shangcai County, Henan coal washing work, his hands were full of coal washing wounds.

The boss of the coal washing plant was from Ningxia, he said his fellow villagers were the basic strength of the factory, and reliable. He was the pioneer of indigenous coal washing, and began to do coal washing in 2001. 2008 was the best time for business, at that time there were more than 300 workers in the factory. This year, most of the surrounding coal plants introduced the small coal washing machines, and only a hundred of people still use the pot to wash coal.

Lunch break, a couple sat in front of the coal piles to have lunch.

After lunch, a young couple from Sichuan had a rest. 

The coal washing women were drinking water in the dusty coal mine. They suffered from the same high-intensity work as man.

There was a heavy rain, coal workers had to call it a day in advance. Usually they started at 4:00 am and called it a day at 8 pm.

Lesser bairam was coming, and the Hui nationality workers didn’t forget washing their body after a hard day.

After a day of hard working, women still had to do cooking and cleaning, which were also their daily "homework".

Jin Tianliang was drying his wet trousers beside a stove.

One coal washing woman from Ningxia looked in the mirror in her own small room, her husband said that’s ok to make up as a human being.

This year, the surrounding factories had introduced small coal washing machines, and only a hundred people here still used the pot coal washing. The indigenous coal washing would gradually become history.

There were many coal washing workers hoping that this industry could be last longer for their economic pressure.

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