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Miners of Huaibei

  • From left, Zhang Yixian, 51, Ren Gongming, 50, Wen Bianyu, 46. Together, they have a cumulative 71 years of experience working in the mines.
    From left, Zhang Yixian, 51, Ren Gongming, 50, Wen Bianyu, 46. Together, they have a cumulative 71 years of experience working in the mines.
  • Li Hongqi, 51, Wang Binjun, 42, Wang Xianjun, 48. Together, they have a cumulative 76 years of experience working in the mines.
    Li Hongqi, 51, Wang Binjun, 42, Wang Xianjun, 48. Together, they have a cumulative 76 years of experience working in the mines.
  • Li Chuanyi, 34, Li Guijie, 38, Zhang Yixian, 51. Together, they have a cumulative 52 years of experience working in the mines.
    Li Chuanyi, 34, Li Guijie, 38, Zhang Yixian, 51. Together, they have a cumulative 52 years of experience working in the mines.
  • Sun Qinshan, 34, Yin Guoshi, 46, Xie Haifeng, 47. Together, they have a cumulative 49 years of experience working in the mines.
    Sun Qinshan, 34, Yin Guoshi, 46, Xie Haifeng, 47. Together, they have a cumulative 49 years of experience working in the mines.
  • Jiang Xingren, 45, Pang Huaibei, 35, Yin Yonghua, 47. Together, they have a cumulative 55 years of experience working in the mines.
    Jiang Xingren, 45, Pang Huaibei, 35, Yin Yonghua, 47. Together, they have a cumulative 55 years of experience working in the mines.
  • Wang Jun, 49, Zhu Baowen, 43, Wang Shoulong, 52. Together, they have a cumulative 71 years of experience working in the mines.
    Wang Jun, 49, Zhu Baowen, 43, Wang Shoulong, 52. Together, they have a cumulative 71 years of experience working in the mines.

Coal miners in Huaibei, in northern Anhui province, pose for photographer Xie Zhengyi, a member of the photo agency CPressphoto. This city of two million sits atop an estimated 2.726 million tons of coal, as well as other mineral reserves.

China is the world’s leader in coal consumption, and coal accounts for 70% of its energy production. But the past six years have seen a precipitous drop in its use of coal from it’s year after year increase over the last several decades, surprising many. After its boom years, the global economic crisis and China’s aggressive push into clean energy curbed demand. In the first quarter of this year, China’s consumption of coal-powered electricity dropped 10%.

Many of these workers come from families of coal miners, their brothers or fathers were also miners. As I look at Xie’s photos, I wonder if I am looking at the face of China’s future, or just at its past.

David M. Barreda