Brazil's artisanal miners seek diamonds at abandoned mine

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Brazil's artisanal miners seek diamonds at abandoned mine
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, a man holding a flashlight searches for a cell signal atop a small hill in Areinha, Brazil. Far into the heart of Brazilâs Minas Gerais state, artisanal miners explore the massive craters left behind by giant mining companies in search of diamonds. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 19, 2015 photo, an artisanal miner shows the diamonds he and his group found in an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The area has been explored for the precious stone since the time of slavery, and up to a couple of years ago, multinational mining companies extracted the stone without care for the land or the Jequitinhonha river that crosses the region. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 19, 2015 photo, a dog eats under a table used to store dishes, mugs and pots in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The area known as Areinha is a no manâs land where small groups of artisanal miners try their luck with artisan techniques, using wooden knives, metal pans, large water pumps and no infrastructure. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
This Nov. 18, 2015 photo shows an area that was destroyed by diamond mining at an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The devastated area known as Areinha is a no manâs land where small groups of artisanal miners try their luck in the craters left behind by multinational mining companies. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 17, 2015 photo, artisanal diamond miner Rafael sits down to eat fish in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Locals estimate there are hundreds of people across the region digging for diamonds in groups of 10 or less. They live in wooden huts without electricity and bathe with water in buckets, barely surviving without a stable income. On rare occasions miners enjoy a windfall of tens of thousands of dollars. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 17, 2015 photo, artisanal miners separate gravel with sieves as they search for diamonds at an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. During the weeks-long mining process, the group excavates the soil down to a layer of gravel of up to 50 meters (yards) deep. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 17, 2015 photo, an artisanal miner searches for diamonds at an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The devastated area known as Areinha is a no manâs land where small groups of rural miners try their luck with artisan techniques, using wooden knives, metal pans, large water pumps and no infrastructure. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 17, 2015 photo, artisanal diamond miners gather inside a bar kept lit at dusk by a generator in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The rural miners live in wooden huts without electricity and bathe with water in buckets, barely surviving without a stable income but on rare occasions enjoying a windfall of tens of thousands of dollars. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, an artisanal miner weighs diamonds in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Diamond mining sounds like a thing of the past to many Brazilians. But here, in areas that are hard to access, thousands of rural miners still survive and feed their families. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, artisanal diamond miner Geraldo smokes in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Geraldo is one of hundreds of people across the region digging for diamonds, living in isolated wooden huts without electricity and with no stable income. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, Jose Vanderson rests on his bed in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Born and raised in Areinha, Vanderson says diamond mining is part of the culture of this region, where the first stone was found nearly 300 years ago. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, Gleice da Conceicao feeds a cow in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Conceicao is one of hundreds of artisanal diamond miners living in wooden huts without electricity who bathe with water in buckets, barely surviving without a stable income. On rare occasions miners enjoy a windfall of tens of thousands of dollars. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 15, 2015 photo, Amadeu de Jesus, 39, left, and Gleice da Conceicao, 29, sit together after dinner in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Amadeu began diamond mining when he was only 14-years-old. He met Gleice in Areinha, where she works as a cook and searches for diamonds in her free time. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 14, 2015 photo, an artisanal diamond miner separates large rocks from smaller ones at an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The mining process can take weeks. First miners excavate the soil. Once the layer of gravel is reached which can be as deep as 50 meters, they extract the rocks with the help of small pumps powered by old truck engines and begin the manual separation process to filter the small rocks, and if lucky, the diamonds. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 14, 2015 photo, artisanal diamond miners use a water pump to separate rocks at an abandoned mine in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The devastated area known as Areinha is a no manâs land where small groups of rural miners try their luck in the craters left behind by multinational mining companies. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 13, 2015 photo, Jose Vanderson prepares dinner inside his home in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. Born and raised in Areinha, Vanderson says mining in part of the culture of this region, where the first diamond was found nearly 300 years ago. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 13, 2015 photo, handmade wooden knifes, used to move small rocks in search of diamonds, sit in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The identification of the diamonds is a hairsplitting task, and sometimes artisanal miners work for a month until they get to the final stage where the precious stones can be found. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 13, 2015 photo, a picture hangs on the wall inside an artisanal diamond miner's home in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The devastated area abandoned by giant mining corporations is now a no man's land where small groups of rural workers try their luck with manual techniques and little to no infrastructure. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
In this Nov. 13, 2015 photo, an artisanal diamond miner chops firewood in Areinha, Minas Gerais state, Brazil. The area has been explored for the precious stone since the time of slavery. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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AREINHA, Brazil (AP) — Far into the heart of Brazil's Minas Gerais state, rural miners explore the massive craters left behind by giant mining companies in search of diamonds.

Associated Press photographer Felipe Dana created a collection of images about the artisanal miners and their craft as a work project for the 2015 World Press Photo Latin America masterclass held in Mexico City in December.

SEE ALSO: Why lab-grown diamonds could become the way of the future

The area that Dana documented has been explored for the precious stone since the time of slavery. Up to a few years ago, multinational mining companies extracted the stone without concern for the land or the Jequitinhonha River crossing the region.

Today the devastated area known as Areinha is a no man's land where small groups of rural miners try their luck with artisan techniques, using wooden knives, metal pans, large water pumps and no infrastructure.

In hopes of sparing the river any more damage, men and women searching for diamonds work around the riverbed as they try to legalize their mining activities with authorities.

Locals estimate there are hundreds of people across the region digging for diamonds in groups of 10 or less. They live in wooden huts without electricity and bathe with water in buckets, barely surviving without a stable income but on rare occasions enjoying a windfall of tens of thousands of dollars.

During the weeks-long mining process, the group excavates the soil down to a layer of gravel of up to 50 meters (yards) deep.

Rocks are extracted with the help of small pumps powered by old truck engines. The miners then use their hands to go through the rocks. If they're lucky, they'll find some diamonds.

Diamond mining sounds like a thing of the past to many Brazilians. But here, in areas that are hard to access, thousands of these artisanal miners still survive and feed their families.

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