Yu Zudong rides an orange truck rattling down Xiaoqinling mountain in central China, past a landscape pockmarked with gold caves and the garbage-strewn tent homes of workers.
“Everybody here wants to earn a fortune,” says Yu, a migrant miner who is taking a 24-ton load of gray rocks to a grinder in the foothill town of Yuling.
Nearby, sitting in one of the shanties, miner Li Shanchi waits for his next payday. He hasn’t worked for two months since officials closed some mines after a fire killed nine workers on the mountain, 800 kilometers (500 miles) southwest of Beijing. His lungs are filled with dust he inhaled during a decade of mining, he says, leaving him with silicosis, an incurable lung disease.