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Cameroon's muscle-bound miners: Photos show the incredible sculpted physique of workers



Cameroon's muscle-bound miners: Photos show the incredible sculpted physique of workers who dive 20ft to collect tonnes of wet sand from the river bed

  • Muscular tribesmen in Cameroon regularly risk their lives diving to the river bed to collect sand 
  • Miners work by collecting huge quantities of wet sand at the bottom of the Wouri River each time they dive 
  • Artisanal mining done by subsistence miners who are not officially employed and work independently
  • Pictures show workmen jumping from canoes to collect the wet sand for use in building and construction

By Terri-ann Williams For Mailonline

Published: 06:46 EST, 17 January 2019 | Updated: 07:21 EST, 17 January 2019

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These incredible photographs show the the sculpted physique of workers who do one of the most dangerous jobs on earth.

The buff divers plunge deep into a fast-flowing river to scoop up sand from the bottom 20 feet below. The muscular African tribesmen regularly risk their lives diving to the river bed to collect sand for the building industry.

Artisanal mining is carried out by subsistence miners who are not officially employed by a company, but work independently. 

These miners in Cameroon, captured on camera by photographer Hugh Brown, work by collecting huge quantities of wet sand at the bottom of the Wouri River each time they dive to the bottom. 

Artisanal miners in Cameroon who dive to the bottom of the Wouri River to collect sand to transport up river for use in construction
Artisanal miners in Cameroon who dive to the bottom of the Wouri River to collect sand to transport up river for use in construction

Artisanal miners in Cameroon who dive to the bottom of the Wouri River to collect sand to transport up river for use in construction

Hard at work: One well-chiseled miner rows across the river whilst standing on top of a canoe in the Wouri River
Hard at work: One well-chiseled miner rows across the river whilst standing on top of a canoe in the Wouri River

Hard at work: One well-chiseled miner rows across the river whilst standing on top of a canoe in the Wouri River

These miners work by collecting huge quantities of wet sand at the bottom of the Wouri River each time they dive to the bottom
These miners work by collecting huge quantities of wet sand at the bottom of the Wouri River each time they dive to the bottom

These miners work by collecting huge quantities of wet sand at the bottom of the Wouri River each time they dive to the bottom

Miners in Cameroon
Miners in Cameroon
Miners in Cameroon
Miners in Cameroon

Artisanal mining is a subsistence miner who is not officially employed by a company, but works independently. One miner (left) can be seen emptying a sand bucket while the other (right) is see on a canoe

The 49-year-old was able to show divers - some of whom can't swim - incredibly taking strides to the bottom at least a 100 times in each shift.

The workmen can be seen jumping from their pirogue's - long, narrow canoes - with buckets to collect the wet sand for use in building and construction materials.

Hugh, from Perth, Australia, said: 'The work is very very dangerous.

Come rain or shine: The miners have to plunge seven metres deep to collect sand to transport up a 159 mile long river
Come rain or shine: The miners have to plunge seven metres deep to collect sand to transport up a 159 mile long river

Come rain or shine: The miners have to plunge seven metres deep to collect sand to transport up a 159 mile long river

The miners usually wear swimming trunks and gloves for the job in the Wouri River. One of the workers is pictured unloading sand
The miners usually wear swimming trunks and gloves for the job in the Wouri River. One of the workers is pictured unloading sand

The miners usually wear swimming trunks and gloves for the job in the Wouri River. One of the workers is pictured unloading sand

The Wouri River where the miners work forms at the confluence of the rivers Nkam and Makomb
The Wouri River where the miners work forms at the confluence of the rivers Nkam and Makomb

The Wouri River where the miners work forms at the confluence of the rivers Nkam and Makomb

The miners have to use a bucket (pictured above) to retrieve the sand from the bottom of the river before swimming back up with it 
The miners have to use a bucket (pictured above) to retrieve the sand from the bottom of the river before swimming back up with it 

The miners have to use a bucket (pictured above) to retrieve the sand from the bottom of the river before swimming back up with it 

There are around 4000 divers working on the stretch of the river at any one time, in this particular group there were six
There are around 4000 divers working on the stretch of the river at any one time, in this particular group there were six

There are around 4000 divers working on the stretch of the river at any one time, in this particular group there were six

The diver use a three kilogram steel buckets (pictured above) with holes punched in the bottom to collect the sand 
The diver use a three kilogram steel buckets (pictured above) with holes punched in the bottom to collect the sand 

The diver use a three kilogram steel buckets (pictured above) with holes punched in the bottom to collect the sand 

'Just getting to the bottom and getting sand in the bucket proved to be an incredible achievement - let alone then bringing it up from the river floor.

'They are incredibly tough people that were amongst the strongest and most ripped people that I have ever photographed anywhere around the world.

'I was fortunate to end up with what turned out to be the strongest six man crew of all the 4000 sand divers working on the river.'

On reaching the river bottom they then scoop up around 15 kilos of wet sand and then use a pole to launch themselves up to the surface and tip the river-sand into the pirogue
On reaching the river bottom they then scoop up around 15 kilos of wet sand and then use a pole to launch themselves up to the surface and tip the river-sand into the pirogue

On reaching the river bottom they then scoop up around 15 kilos of wet sand and then use a pole to launch themselves up to the surface and tip the river-sand into the pirogue

There are casualties each year with people drowning - even for the divers who are strong swimmers, as they have to battle various weather conditions
There are casualties each year with people drowning - even for the divers who are strong swimmers, as they have to battle various weather conditions

There are casualties each year with people drowning - even for the divers who are strong swimmers, as they have to battle various weather conditions

According to the photographer, the divers are sometimes so exhausted after filling a pirogue that they have no strength left to swim
According to the photographer, the divers are sometimes so exhausted after filling a pirogue that they have no strength left to swim

According to the photographer, the divers are sometimes so exhausted after filling a pirogue that they have no strength left to swim

These pictures, which were taken with the assistance of the United Nations Development Program, divers using a three kilogram steel buckets with holes punched in the bottom.

On reaching the river bottom they then scoop up around 15 kilos of wet sand and then use a pole to launch themselves up to the surface and tip the river-sand into the pirogue.

Hugh says some of the males are 'lucky to be alive' as there are casualties each year with people drowning - even for the divers who are strong swimmers.

Wouri is a river stream, where the miners work in the  in southwestern Cameroon whose estuary on the Atlantic Ocean is the site of Douala, the country’s major industrial centre and port
Wouri is a river stream, where the miners work in the  in southwestern Cameroon whose estuary on the Atlantic Ocean is the site of Douala, the country’s major industrial centre and port

Wouri is a river stream, where the miners work in the  in southwestern Cameroon whose estuary on the Atlantic Ocean is the site of Douala, the country’s major industrial centre and port

This diver looks at peace with the river has he rows a canoe that he is preparing to jump off of in order to retrieve the sand
This diver looks at peace with the river has he rows a canoe that he is preparing to jump off of in order to retrieve the sand

This diver looks at peace with the river has he rows a canoe that he is preparing to jump off of in order to retrieve the sand

One diver jumps off the canoe naked as he prepares to collect the sand in the heavy buckets which are usually used
One diver jumps off the canoe naked as he prepares to collect the sand in the heavy buckets which are usually used

One diver jumps off the canoe naked as he prepares to collect the sand in the heavy buckets which are usually used

He adds: 'Just the act of diving for them, particularly in these tides, takes incredible bravery.

'Divers are sometimes so exhausted after filling a pirogue that they have no strength left to swim.

'Drownings have also occurred when they end up in the water on the return trip back to port.

The canoes are often filled full of sand by the end of the day and the divers often have to scoop water out of the canoes
The canoes are often filled full of sand by the end of the day and the divers often have to scoop water out of the canoes

The canoes are often filled full of sand by the end of the day and the divers often have to scoop water out of the canoes

The whole group of divers (pictured above) get to work on the canoes which they will jump off of to retrieve the sand
The whole group of divers (pictured above) get to work on the canoes which they will jump off of to retrieve the sand

The whole group of divers (pictured above) get to work on the canoes which they will jump off of to retrieve the sand

'Other divers - that can swim - drown when they misjudge the location of the hull of the boat and get knocked out when they surface and bang their heads.

'At night this is particularly dangerous because no one can see them in the dark and they can get washed away by the tides.

'Other divers suffer from bleeding from the ears and noses and eyes due to the depths they are working at and sand often ingresses through those cavities.'

Miners
Miners
Miners
Miners

The grueling work is tough on the body and on the mind and the divers have to stay in good shape for the job

The boats all lined up and ready to go home after a successful day at work 
The boats all lined up and ready to go home after a successful day at work 

The boats all lined up and ready to go home after a successful day at work 

The work is often dangerous and there is at least one casualty a year on the river 
The work is often dangerous and there is at least one casualty a year on the river 

The work is often dangerous and there is at least one casualty a year on the river 

Hugh began taking pictures of artisanal mining after wanting to produce a comprehensive study that captured the activity globally.

Hugh has previously captured men and women working in some of the most 'spectacular', remote and 'dangerous' work environments.

Hugh aims to make it the subject of a major photo art book and will also be the subject of a major feature documentary film.

Hugh aims to make it the subject of a major photo art book and will also be the subject of a major feature documentary film
Hugh aims to make it the subject of a major photo art book and will also be the subject of a major feature documentary film

Hugh aims to make it the subject of a major photo art book and will also be the subject of a major feature documentary film

 

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