JAINTIA HILLS, INDIA - APRIL 13: A coal miner sits for a portrait, as he takes a break from digging out coal, using hands and a pick to get at the seams of coal that lay 300 ft below the surface at a... more 
JAINTIA HILLS, INDIA - APRIL 13: A coal miner sits for a portrait, as he takes a break from digging out coal, using hands and a pick to get at the seams of coal that lay 300 ft below the surface at a coal mine on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke near Lad Rymbai, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. The Jaintia hills, located in India's far North East 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. Workers can earn as much as 150 USD per week or 30,000 Rupees per month, significantly higher than the national average of 15 USD per day. After traversing treacherous mountain roads, the coal is delivered to neighbouring Bangladesh and to Assam from where it is distributed all over India, to be used primarily for power generation and as a source of fuel in cement plants. Many workers leave homes in neighbouring states, and countries, like Bangladesh and Nepal, hoping to escape poverty and improve their quality of life. Some send money back to loved ones at home, whilst many others squander their earnings on alcohol, drugs and prostitution in the dusty, coal mining towns like Lad Rymbai. Some of the labor is forced, and an Indian NGO group, Impulse, estimates that 5,000 privately-owned coal mines in Jaintia Hills employed some 70,000 child miners. The government of Meghalaya refuted this figure, claiming that the mines had only 222 minor workers. Despite the ever present dangers and hardships, children, migrants and locals flock to the mines hoping to strike it rich in India's wild east. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) less 
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Getty Images | Photo By Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images
Sat, May 14, 2011 6:01 AM EDT