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The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

Apr 20, 2015 | 831 videos
Video by Michael T. Miller

India is home to thousands of unregulated, unmonitored coal mines. Migrant workers risk their lives in these underground "rat hole mines," chipping away coal with pick axes and hauling it away in baskets. More than 5 million metric tons of coal are mined by hand every year. 

The environmental damage caused by this mining is spectacular: landscapes destroyed, fresh water polluted, fish and wildlife killed. "The river was our source of water," Kip Amtra, a village headman, tells filmmaker Michael T. Miller. "Now, the people do not touch it. They are repulsed by it."

In Miller's short documentary, miners in the northeastern state of Meghalaya struggle to find work after an Indian judicial agency shuts down the mines indefinitely. "With the mines closed," says Nishant, a Nepali migrant, "there's really no reason to live here. There is no other work." 

This documentary is a production of the Woodrow Wilson Center in association with Think Out Loud Productions.

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Author: Chris Heller

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.