Posts Tagged ‘mining’


Photo: Kacper Pempel/Reuters
In the top photo jeweler Katarzyna Depa, 26, holds a silver ring with coal at her atelier in Katowice, Poland. Below, Grzegorz Chudy, 36, paints at his atelier in Katowice, where affordable rents have drawn artists.

Having recently watched the devastating 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA about a Kentucky mining strike, I’ve become a little more skeptical about longtime miners’ ability to transition to a new kind of life. Although I have blogged about efforts to help miners learn programming skills, for example, or be trained for jobs in the solar industry, such things may attract only younger people.

In this story from Public Radio International (PRI), we learn about recent changes in Poland, where the conservative government still supports the mining despite climate-change issues.

“When the Wieczorek mine, one of the oldest coal mines in Poland, closed [last] March, Grzegorz Chudy noticed for the first time the neighborhood was vibrant with trees in the full bloom of spring. The smell was heady.

” ‘It was incredible. You never knew all those trees were there,’ he told Reuters in his art studio in a housing estate for mining families in the southwestern Polish city of Katowice. ‘The smell wasn’t there while coal was being transported on trucks. The dust covered it up.’

“The Wieczorek mine in Katowice, with its towering brick shaft, is among dozens closing down throughout Poland, home to one of the most polluted coal mining regions in Europe. …

“Poland has had a painful and difficult experience with the economic transition from coal. Even as it counts down to [November 2018 climate talks], it announced plans for a new coal mine in the south of the country.

“Its government drew support in part from those with an emotional attachment to the job security, social fabric and national pride associated with mining that overlooked the downsides for health and the planet. …

“Chudy, 36, whose paintings often depict the life and architecture of Nikiszowiec, is one of hundreds of people who have moved to the area, drawn by its industrial feel and affordable housing.

“Built to house the families of miners at the start of the 20th century, Nikiszowiec was designed as a self-sufficient neighborhood with its own communal bread ovens and pigsties, as well as a bath house for miners and laundry facilities. …

“Those in the artistic community say their work could only exist with the inspiration provided by decades of mining.

” ‘For me using coal in a different way than it used to be, which was energy, shows its completely new face, so we can call it our new, cool black gold,’ said Katarzyna Depa, who makes jewelry from coal.

“But for those with mining in the blood, moving on is harder and the smell of coal dust is as sweet as blossom. Above all, they miss the community spirit even if it meant shared danger and hardship.”

More at PRI — which is, by the way, an amazing window on the world. Check it out if you don’t know it.

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Funny how things work out.

If Suzanne hadn’t spoken to a woman speaking Swedish to her little girl after toddler music class, I probably would never have known about the Australian mining community Tom Price and the Chinese opera written about it by the Swedish woman’s American husband. But there you are.

Ben Collins, Vanessa Mills, and Hilary Smale put together a story about the opera for ABC Australia.

“It’s a contender for the most unlikely arts even of all time,” they write, “the story of a small North West Australian iron ore mining town told in Chinese operatic style.

“It’s the attention grabbing work of an American artist called Daniel Peltz, who says he aims to provoke ruptures in the socio/cultural fabric through which new ways of being may emerge. In this case that means Chinese opera in a remote Australian mining town.

” ‘I look at Chinese opera as something that’s embedded in the landscape of China, just as iron ore is embedded in the Western Australian landscape. And I think of the gesture of the piece as a way of extracting this resource from China, digging it up and bringing it to Tom Price to tell a story of the town,’ Mr Peltz says. …

“The opera follows the story of Thomas Moore Price, who is said to have died at his desk just before the deal was completed that led to the mine which the town serves.

” ‘I did find an out-of-print book on Tom Price that was produced by Kaiser Steel which confirmed that component of the narrative. But my aim is not to write historically accurate narrative, it’s actually quite the opposite… I’m really looking at extracting elements of the story of this place and sending them to China to be transformed into this opera,’ Mr Peltz says.

“In the opera, Thomas Moore Price’s only daughter, Shirley, has an encounter with the ghost of her father at the summit of Mt Nameless. A 30 minute film of the opera being performed in China will be presented at the Tom Price Community Centre.

” ‘I’ve done a lot of work to make sure that it’s well subtitled so that people can access the narrative,’ says Mr Peltz.”

Wish I had known all this when Dan and his wife (the artist Sissi Westerberg) brought their daughter to my grandson’s two-year-old birthday party a few weeks ago.

The missed opportunities of life!

Read more here and listen to a clip of the traditional-style Chinese opera.

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