Coal as presented by: Boston Big Picture

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. Jimmy Murphy of Sprigg, W.Va. holds a jar filled with well water from his home on November 15, 2010. He says the water was contaminated with coal slurry by Massey Energy and subsidiary Rawl Sales & Processing. Mining company Massey Energy settled a 7-year-old lawsuit with hundreds of southern West Virginia residents who claim the company poisoned their drinking water supplies with coal slurry. Heavy machinery works in the distance at the Kedrovsky open pit coal mine, operated by OAO Kuzbassrazrezugol near Kemerovo, Russia on March 31, 2011. OAO Kuzbassrazrezugol is Russia's second largest coal producer. 0-year-old Anil Basnet sits for a portrait above the coal mine where he works on April 13, 2011 in Jiantia Hills, India. Many workers leave homes in neighboring states, and countries, like Bangladesh and Nepal, hoping to escape poverty and improve their quality of life.

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