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Lignite Mine in Northern Greece

By Yannis Kolesidis

A general view of the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 04 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

A general view of the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 04 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

The mine looks like a huge city which daily mutates. As it is endlessly extended, the roadmap constantly changes. The roads that take you from one place to another disappear. New roads are created that will later also disappear and so on. Charavgi, the “ghost” village that was expropriated along with its inhabitants who were removed to extend the mine, stands like a scene from a movie. In the ruined houses one can still see details that reveal a human presence: a damaged kitchen, two abandoned cups, an open window … Mines are a huge living organism inhabited exclusively by people who work under adverse conditions.

Workers removing soil and mud from an electric powered stacker, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 06 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: Workers removing soil and mud from an electric powered stacker, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 06 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

It did not stop raining during my stay in the area. Smeared faces, dirty hands, muddy boots were the everyday scenery.
The landscape around the thermal power station was grey and smoke clouds covered the sky. Nevertheless, nothing could prepare me for the working conditions there. In a dark basement, workers were cleaning the ash from conveyor belts and shoveling dust from the lignite wearing only a simple protective mask. Their blackened faces were all that stood out in the stuffy atmosphere.

Workers remove mud and lignite from conveyor belts, inside a power plant of Kardia, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: Workers remove mud and lignite from conveyor belts, inside a power plant of Kardia, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

You have to see it in order to believe it. Even the boss who accompanied me did not want to follow me down to the basement. “I will be waiting here to continue the tour,” he said. Before going down, I asked him if I needed to wear rubber boots and a mask so as not to get dirty. “No, it is not necessary,” he replied. When I came out, my shoes were full of mud and my clothes dirty. My face was black and had I not been wearing a mask, I would not have been able breathe.

Paschalis Papaioannou, 51, posing in front of a conveyor belt transferring lignite, inside a power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Paschalis Papaioannou, 51, posing in front of a conveyor belt transferring lignite, inside a power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

These people have the most dangerous jobs, risking their lives by working under abominable conditions. And it is thanks to them that our lives have become simpler so that by flicking on a switch we can flood our lives with light.

Worker Alexandros Moutos, 40, poses next to a conveyor belts transferring ashes coming out from the power plant to the area where they will be buried, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Worker Alexandros Moutos, 40, poses next to a conveyor belts transferring ashes coming out from the power plant to the area where they will be buried, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

A worker takes off his dirty clothes after his shift at a changing room, inside the power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: A worker takes off his dirty clothes after his shift at a changing room, inside the power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

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