Augo Augo

Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal

  • The Future of Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan

    The Future of Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan

    A boy pauses from his work for a portrait at the entrance of a new coal mine on the outskirts of Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan. Soviets founded the town in the Naryn River valley during the 1940s after large coal deposits were found nearby. When the USSR abandoned its occupation of Kyrgyzstan in 1991, it left 20,000 residents of Tash-Kumyr to fend for themselves. This photo essay is a look at the lives, struggles, and spirit of the people in Tash-Kumyr as they continue to transition into a life without the direct influence--and financial support--of a Soviet Russia.
  • Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan

    Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan

    A buzzard glides over Tash-Kumyr, Krygyzstan on New Year's Day, 2012. The small town's location--along the west bank of the Naryn River on the southern edge of the Tien Shan Mountains--should lend itself to being a popular resort town. However, as Kyrgyzstan continues a bumpy transition from Soviet occupation to independence, the community faces physical and economic realities that are far from comfortable.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
    Coal singlehandedly keeps the wheels on Tash-Kumyr's economy, but claims plenty of victims in the process. Throughout the town, permanently disfigured miners are confined to their beds, and with coal being the primary source of heat in homes, the air in the city is a thick, soot-heavy haze. Thus, the presence of coal is attributed to a wide range of health problems for both miners and the common citizen.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Value

    Value

  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • A Hazardous Existence

    A Hazardous Existence

    As two children watch with headlamps mounted, a coal miner chips away at the ceiling deep in the tunnels of a rogue coal mine outside of Tash-Kumyr, Kyrgyzstan on January 3, 2012. Since the Soviets left in 1991, safety equipment and regulations have vanished in Kyrgyzstan's mining communities. Without beams to support the fragile walls and ceilings of Tash-Kumyr's mines, partial collapses occur frequently, often resulting in catastrophic injuries or death to miners.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Delivery

    Delivery

    Workers load coal for a delivery to a residential home.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Men of the House

    Men of the House

    From left, Surarov Daniar, 5, Surarov Talgat, 2, and Makcatbek Uulu Eldiar, 7 stand at the door of the home they share with their mother, Rulinara Umerova. The boys' father and oldest brother were killed in a partial coal mine collapse in 2009, and Rulinara struggles to keep bills paid and food supplied on the 60 dollars per month that the Kyrgyz government offers those widowed by mining accidents. She relies on assistance from her brother-in-law and old school mates.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
    A Tash-Kumyr resident walks away from an abandoned silo at the edge of town after scavenging for enough coal to fill his bag. A bag of coal typically costs the average citizen 150 Com, or 3 American dollars. However, frugal and venturesome residents can find abandoned coal caches to stock up from. During better days, trains ran over these rails frequently to load coal for delivery across the Soviet Union and its territories. Piles of coal that were never delivered remain scattered along the tracks.
  • Excavation

    Excavation

    The bucket of a rickety excavator moves from the wall of an open pit mine towards a group of sorters waiting below. While open-pit mining is safer than underground mining, the equipment left from the Soviet era is deteriorating fast. Generally, there is not enough money to replace or repair broken equipment.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • The Day's Work

    The Day's Work

    Miners load their day's spoils into the back of a delivery truck.
  • Weight

    Weight

    From the cab of a broken-down excavator, young men are seen carrying bags of coal across a muddy landscape. Rogue bands of laborers offer a variety of coal-related services, including the physical mining of the coal, sorting by size of coal block, bagging, transportation to marketplace and delivery to individual's homes.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Ambulance

    Ambulance

    A miner closes the door of an old military ambulance converted to a coal delivery truck. On a given day, one of two things could be carried away from Tash-Kumyr's coal mines: the bags of coal that represent the town's economy, or an injured miner that represents the town's reality.
  • Recovery

    Recovery

    In the area that serves as their dining room, living room and bedroom of their 5th floor apartment in Tash-Kumyr, Tashmatova Zamira holds the hand of her badly injured husband, Atabaev Tokoy Riskulbekovich on New Year's Day, 2012. The young couple experienced an unfortunate and unexpected hardship when Atabaev was injured in a partial mine collapse. His hip was broken when a large block of coal separated from the ceiling of the mine he was working in and fell on him. His doctor expects a full recovery, but even if that is so, Atabaev says the money he made from mining is not worth his life, and claims he will never step foot in a coal mine again.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Immobility

    Immobility

    Sartpaev Ayibek Saribaebich gazes up the hill behind his family's home from his wheelchair on December 31, 2011. The former coal miner built the home on the west bank of the Naryn River with the help of his brother in 1998. Four years later, a mining accident restricted him to this wheelchair, and, with his home sitting on a steep hill, he can not leave his property unless several men are available to carry him up to the road above.
  • Patience

    Patience

    Saribaev Kayrat, 10, waits patiently for his father to position himself into a wheelchair at their home in Tash-Kumyr. The boy was less than a year old when his father's legs and pelvis were crushed in a partial coal mine collapse. Today, he is integral in helping his father move in and out of bed and around the house.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
    Sartpaev Ayibek Saribaebich lay still after receiving a massage from his wife, Sartpaeva Tinar. In January of 2002, Sartpaev's pelvis and lower spine were crushed in a partial mine collapse. After several months, doctors determined that the top half of his right femur needed to be removed, resulting in the deep, caved in scar seen here. The town's lone, small hospital is not adequately prepared for the catastrophic injuries suffered by coal miners, and families generally can't afford to travel elsewhere for medical attention. Wives of injured miners are taught a variety of massage techniques, which pass as physical therapy.
  • Waiting

    Waiting

    Sartpaev Ayibek Saribaebich waits for his sons to carry him through the door of their home. His oldest helps the family by working a few shifts a week in the mines, but it will never be enough to realize Sartpaev's dream of moving to Bishkek--Kyrgyzstan's largest city--where there are doctors, therapy and job opportunities for the disabled, and more importantly, no coal mines.
  • Carrying the Fire

    Carrying the Fire

    As darkness falls on New Year's Day 2012, young boys find firecrackers left from the night before along the abandoned railroad tracks that cut across Tash-Kumyr.
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo
  • Kyrgyzstan's Killer Coal - Augo