Burning underground coal fires

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Edition POPCAP Shop Images32.jpg
048.jpg
Edition POPCAP Shop Images32.jpg

Burning underground coal fires

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The decommissioned Transvaal and Delagoa Bay Coal Mine is known to be one of the most dangerous abandoned mines in South Africa. Mining at the state-owned colliery started around 1896. Following closure in 1953, the area became unsafe because of the underground burning of the remaining support pillars. Even before mining had stopped, underground fires occurred and the surface began to collapse. Sinkholes and cracks appeared where the pillars had given way, allowing oxygen into the underground workings and fanning the fires. The underground coal fire is an environmental catastrophe, characterised by the emission of noxious gases. Such fires are respon-sible for atmospheric pollution, acid rain, land subsidence, and increased coronary and respiratory diseases. They destroy floral and faunal habitats and cause human suffering. From Legacy of the Mine, 2010–2013

Edition of 7 + 2AP
Sheet size A2 (420 x 594mm). 
Ultrachrome Pigmentprint on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth Archival Paper 305 g/sqm

Print number: IG1400X-8

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For more than a century, South Africa’s demand for gold, diamonds, coal and platinum has gone from strength to strength, often shifting in accordance with the political economy and the availability of foreign markets. Mineral exploitation by means of cheap and disposable labour has brought national economic growth, making the mining industry the largest industrial sector in South Africa. The mine, irrespective of the particular minerals extracted, is central to understanding societal change across the country. The issues it raises in South Africa are evidently comparable to mining concerns around the world. This enabled Ilan Godfrey to channel his conception of the mine into visual representations that gave agency to forgotten communities. The countless stories of personal suffering are brought to the surface and the legacy of the mine is revealed. This is apparent through land rendered unfit for alternative uses, through public health crises within local communities, land and water pollution, and through the disruptive influence of historical labour exploitation impacting on familial structures and cultural positioning. – Ilan Godfrey