Ronny Sen (@ronnysen) has been photographing the lives of those who toil on the gigantic coal mine in Jharia, India for the past four years. The Indian Instagrammer and two other photographers recently won $10,000 each from Getty Images Instagram Grant, which supports photographers using Instagram to tell under-reported stories from around the world.
Sen’s story is one common to many rural communities that depend on natural resources extraction, where a myriad of governmental, corporate and local powers have more to gain from aggravating a difficult social problem than from ending it. In Jharia, villagers who reap meager rewards from the mine are also plagued by a raging coal fire that started more than a century ago, for reasons still unknown.
One of the photos from Sen’s project Instagram account (@whatdoestheendoftimelooklike) shows a truck digging a pile of burning coal from the ground. But it is virtually impossible to put out the fire: Because of the sheer size of the mine, the truck would have no choice but to dump the burning coal back onto piles of coal nearby, Sen tells Quartz. As the government continues to expand the mining areas, the fire spreads, forcing locals to flee their homes….