Located in East Java, Indonesia, the Kawah Ijen volcanic crater has an eerie beauty to it. But its turquoise waters are filled with deadly acid thanks to the volcano's sulfuric output. That doesn't stop sulfur miners from braving the toxic gases.
Top photo by Bertrand Claude.
In fact, the sulfur gives the waters of Kawah Ijen a 0.5 pH. Despite the area's beauty, it evokes a hellish feel with its constant odor of brimstone. And it is truly hellish for the miners who work there, waiting for the molten sulfur to cool and then hauling it down the mountain. The sulfur is used for sugar refining, agriculture, winemaking, and a number of other purposes, and most miners make the trek to the crater and back two or three times a day.
Miners are paid by the weight of sulfur they retrieve, and receive roughly $5 USD per day, twice the Indonesian minimum wage, and they pay a hard price for that salary. Those sulfuric gases cause respiratory problems and bone disease and eventually eat through teeth, bringing the average life expectancy of these sulfur miners down to 40 years. Outside of Indonesia, this type of sulfur mining is a thing of the past, either halted or entirely mechanized. But it appears manual sulfur mining will continue in Indonesia for the foreseeable future. Photo by Matthew Harrigan.
The Deceptive Beauty of Indonesia's Deadly Acid Volcano [Environmental Graffiti]