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Shanxi Province

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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BOY WITH THE MASK
BOY WITH THE MASK: Wang Gengxiang, known as ‘Masked Boy,’ played with a balloon in Shanxi Province, China, Thursday. The 6-year-old was severely burned last winter in an accident involving a pile of burning straw. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

TAKING A HIT
TAKING A HIT: Spc. Marcus Clay rode in a mine-resistant vehicle as an improvised explosive device detonated in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Friday. No one was injured. (Johannes Eisele/Aence France-Presse/Getty Images)

HUDDLED TOGETHER
HUDDLED TOGETHER: Players were locked in a scrum during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Tonga at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, Friday. (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

ALL ABOARD
ALL ABOARD: Officials rode a train during the inauguration Friday of the second metro rail network in Dubai, which opened after a two-year delay. (Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

SHIELDED
SHIELDED: Police took up positions as protesters pulled down a concrete wall in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday. Since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, calls have grown in Egypt for ending a 1979 peace treaty with Israel. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters)

FLOATING ALONG
FLOATING ALONG: Rob Hewitt floated past flooded buildings in Port Deposit, Md., Friday. Officials ordered a mandatory evacuation as the Susquehanna River, swollen with rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, continued to rise. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

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