Workers at this mine in Choa Saidanshah in Pakistan's Punjab province dig coal with pick axes, break it up and load it onto donkeys to be transported to the surface.

Employed by private contractors, a team of four workers can dig about a ton of coal a day, for which they earn around six pounds to be split between them.

coal mining donkeys pakistan
Miners pose for a photograph at the coal face inside a mine in Choa Saidanshah, Punjab province, Pakistan(Sara Farid / Reuters)

The coal mine is in the heart of Punjab, Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province, but the labourers mostly come from the poorer neighbouring region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Although Pakistan has introduced legislation to deal with child labour, the problem is deeply entrenched in society. Nearly 60% of Pakistan's working children are in Punjab province. Children often inherit huge, unpayable debts and are forced to work as bonded labourers. Children working in mines can be vulnerable to dangers such as sexual abuse by older miners.

The donkeys make around 20 trips per day carrying sacks weighing about 20kg each. The work is dangerous with the constant risk of cave-ins. The miners say they do what they can to care for the animals, with their limited resources, but the difficult conditions mean the donkeys' life expectancy is 12-13 years (compared with 30 to 50 years in more prosperous countries).

coal mining donkeys pakistan
Samiullah, who says he is 14 years old, breaks coal underground in the mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A miner and a donkey make their way through the low, narrow tunnel leading out of the coal mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A miner unloads coal from the donkeys(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A young miner rushes his donkeys back into the coal mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A young miner leads his team of donkeys back to the coal face underground(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
Mohammad Ismail, 25, uses a pickaxe underground in the coal mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A miner wipes sweat from his forehead inside the coal mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
Miners take a break to drink water inside the coal mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
A miner pats his donkey at a coal mine in Choa Saidan Shah(Sara Farid / Reuters)
coal mining donkeys pakistan
Tears stained with coal dust run down a donkey's face as it looks out of its stable at the mine(Sara Farid / Reuters)