In the commune of Mibladen, a small Moroccan village 25km from Midelt, the human gaze encounters desolate landscapes and life itself intersects abandonment. Reaching the area that is most often cited as the mineral capital of Morocco, one can hardly guess that behind the rocky wilderness used to lie mineral-rich resources, yet not inexhaustible.
The history of Mibladen and its people is inextricably linked to mineral resources. From the mid-1950s, over the ‘cracks’ of French colonialism, the discovery of lead in the area has led to unprecedented growth activities. Almost 30.000 workers from Casablanca, Meknes and other cities of the country flocked the surroundings of Mibladen. As a result, housing and railways construction boomed. The mines were busy 24 hours a day. It is said that the province of Midelt was the second to have electricity, after Casablanca.
Despite the fact that Morocco experienced radical changes following the end of colonial rule, the mines remained for 25 years under strict French control. By the mid-1970s resources were almost exhausted and soon the mining activities were officially halted. The workers abandoned their villages that were, in turn, desolated.
Nowadays, Mibladen is often visited by entrepreneurs from Midelt and European countries who are interested in minerals, fossils and metals seeking to resell them in Europe. Most of the few remaining residents are thus dependent on the ‘leftovers’. Preserving old traditions of hospitality, they invite visitors in their houses, share the ritual of tea and show their findings.
One of them is Mohamed. On a daily basis, he walks through deserted streets to the surroundings of the commune and the desolated mining village of Aouli until he reaches the old mines that have been left only with their natural shape. Passing through tunnels to the heart of the cliffs, standing between light and darkness, he digs the mountain by hand, searching for lead, copper and minerals. He learned the job from his father when he was 10 years old and he lives on it ever since. When he does not work in the old mines, he is looking for fossils with his younger brother, Abdul.
Mohamed explains that within a year he could dig 20 km. “If you find something, you survive, if not…”, he says. However, nothing comes without a price. Self-collection of minerals is rather dangerous. In fact, many accidents have occurred in the search for new resources. As for the survivors, they are always grateful to have something to share at the end of the day.
About the author:
Manos Fikaris was born in Athens, Greece on March 1983. He currently lives and works in Athens, Greece. He graduated from Leica Academy of Creative Photography in 2009. Since 2012, he has travelled to 13 countries in Asia and Africa capturing life, landscapes and people.