Dark Matter

PhotographerKarel Kravik
PrizeGold in Press / Nature/Environmental
Entry Description

Northeastern part of Estonia called Ida-Virumaa is the region to where almost all Estonian industry is located. Due to its rich oil shale deposits it's sometimes even called The Oil-Shale Land. Although industry creates a lot of jobs, it's also heavy on environment. During Soviet times where the peak of oil-shale mining was achieved, there were 11 working mines and quarries and the whole region was said to be on the verge of ecological catastrophe. Nowadays the mining companies care much more about the environment and also the work is much more automated and effective, mostly thanks to the restrictions set by EU. But the industrial legacy has not disappeared. In 2013 I had a rare chance to visit a mine that was about to be closed after fifty years of operation. Due to inevitable closure, this mine was also the least modernized one - some of the machinery there had been operating there almost since the beginning. The same can be said about the people - a few of them started there in 1964. This photo essay is covering the regular working day of the oil-shale miners. I tried to truthfully convey the environment and working conditions in the underground. These are real situations, shot with minimal additional lightning. The outcome is on one hand a tribute to the miners' tough profession and on the other hand a trip out of comfort zone for the rest of us. I remember this noisy, dusty darkness and the people working there every time I plug anything to the electric grid.