It’s now 5AM and I am present in a 75 square meter yard of Ha Lam Coal Company, Ha Long city. Vehicles carrying workers to begin their first shift are coming in and out. A working day lasts 24 hours and is divided into 3 shifts. You might ask what a miner does each day. After passing by the crowded canteen, I reach a workshop area where every miner receives their protective clothing and respiratory protection equipment before heading down to the coal mines.
Mangers and everybody shout out ‘Safety”, making sure that safety measures will always be taken. A shift lasts 8 hours. Each worker brings with him a loaf of bread and milk for refreshment in the middle of their shift.
I followed miners to the auxiliary well, where we were transported to a depth of 300m under sea level. I talked with a miner:
Hello, is your work now different from previously?
“Previously, it was not as convenient as it is now. We had to walk a lot and carry heavy equipment. This job is now done by machine. Mechanization technology ensures safety for us and increases productivity and revenue.”
Humidity and high pressure can make people faint, are you safe while being so deep underground?
“I have been working as miner for 24 years. It’s frightening to enter the dark coal mine without any sunlight. But I have received support and encouragement from experienced miners. Now I am mentoring the younger workers.”
What is your unforgettable memory?
“The most memorable unfortunately is the moment a co-worker of mine died. When he was in distress, all of us were nervous and ceased all production activities in an attempt to save his life. It’s our responsibility to remind each other to be cautious about accidents to protect ourselves.”
Coal miners consider each other comrade-in-arms.
Here are workers who have just finished their third shift and are back on the ground. Tired people covered in coal dust smile when they see my camera. I go with them to their dormitory.
Hi, the dormitory looks as comfortable as an apartment. How do you live away from your family?
“The lodging is good and much cheaper than elsewhere. Security, water and electricity supply is ensured, helping workers relax after hard work. There is a pin pong table and a sports hall for playing badminton, futsal, and volleyball. We have arranged 3 “happy rooms” for workers to stay with their relatives, who come to visit them.”
Now I am visiting the house of Nguyen Van Phuong, an exemplary worker whose initiatives help boost production. He is living in the miners’ street.
Hi Phuong, is your monthly salary enough for your family to live on?
“My income is VND30 million (US$1,3000) per month. It’s not enough. I try to earn more by instigating initiatives to increase productivity.”
I ask Phuong’s wife: why did you marry him, a miner whose job is both hard and dangerous?
“Because I love him. I feel very worried whenever I hear the news on TV about a mining accident. I am most happy to see my hubby come back after work. So I try my best to comfort him.”
Saying goodbye to his wife, Phuong, like tens of thousands of other miners, go to the dark coal mining tunnel with life aspiration and a passion for work, which lead them to go through danger and hardship.