|Areas of intensive coal production are reinforced with tree trunks set by experienced workers. The expert excavators and "reserve" workers working under supervisors' guidance form the closest relationship with coal. Mining is an operation of scale: at one end are the brains of the engineers, and at the other the hard labor of the excavators and gallery reinforcers.|
The lamp illuminates the shiny black mineral, the product of decomposed and regenerated giant trees in a swamp approximately 350 million year ago. As the layers become compressed, the vegetation loses water and becomes carbon-rich, forming peat, the ancestor of coal. Coal formation includes lignite, anthracite and finally coke used in steel production.
Coal was first discovered in Zonguldak in the course of petrol research by the British. Lack of technology and qualified workforce, however, presented to major obstacles to taking advantage of this newly discovered resource. At the time of the Crimean War, soldiers were forced to work the mines. Later a permanent workforce was created from local males aged 13-50 years who were paid at the end of the month in tea, cigarettes, sugar and salt.
Since the 1940's, the Zonguldak mines, Kozlu, Karadon and Üzülmez have been nationalized, profoundly linking the lives of the Zonguldak people to coal.
Coal is removed mechanically using tools powered by pressurized air among the pit props, in some locations too cramped for a person to stand upright. The coal is then loaded onto conveyors drawn to the main galleries by anti-fire damp diesel locomotives and taken to the surface on pulleys for purification and sale. One gram of the black mineral contains 8,000 calories - the equivalent of three to four eggs. There are a thousand by-products of coal, ranging from cement to eye pencils and women's stockings.
Although the face is thoroughly dampened before digging, the air fills with clouds of fine black particles. On the streets of Zonguldak miners can easily be recognized by the black lines encircling their eyes - nature's own eye liner. They neither love nor hate coal, working while discussing subjects such as politics, football and the consequences of privatization.
For health reasons the miners work for two consecutive months and then have a month's unpaid rest. How they make the transition from underground to the outside world is unknown.
Production points change from one day to the next due to the continuous process of extraction. Accordingly, some of the props in the reinforced gallery roofs also have to be rearranged. Before dealing with this task, a "reserve" excavator takes the necessary measurements with an axe.
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