Ijen Crater Sulpher Miners, Java, Indonesia 2013
These photos were all taken in and around the Ijen volcanic crater in eastern Java, Indonesia. The crater is famous for the group of 'miners' who descend down into the belly of the volcanic crater and dig harvest the sulphur emitted by the volcano. Working conditions are very tough as the crater is filled with highly noxious gases. Even with gas masks it's very hard to breath when the acidic gas covers you - eyes stream and sting and within seconds you start to retch and get a head ache. Many of the miners work with a miniumn of safety equipment. Instead of gas maskes many use just a piece of cloth wrapped over their mouth and nose. Once they have gathered around 70-90kg of sulphur they load it into baskets, carry it up the steep crater sides and then 4km down the mountain. Most make two ascents/descents a day. Many miners start work in the cool of night. At such times the burning sulphur glows an strange blue colour (as seen in some of these pictures). Once the miners have brought their sulphur to the bottom of the mountain it's loaded into lorries and carried an hour down the road to the processing centre - a place that's nearly as extraordinary as the crater itself. Here it's melted down into liquid, dried out in sheets on the floor, broken up and packed up to be sold for use in fertilisers, cosmetics and other household goods.
Photos copyright Stuart Butler and not be used without permission.
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