Kawah Ijen: Sulfur Miners of Ijen Crater (Indonesia)
Kawah Ijen is Java's famous sulfur-belching volcanic crater. It is also the regular workplace for almost three hundred men, who make the grueling journey up the mountain and down the crater rim to mine sulfur.
The men depend on nothing more than a metal rod and sheer muscle power. They have no special equipment to assist them with the mining and little to no protection from the poisonous fumes that the volcano constantly expels. The job of the men at Kawah Ijen might be one of the most difficult and dangerous in the world.
The miners load their creaking bamboo baskets with broken chunks of sulfur until the weight reaches 50kg - 100kg, depending on the strength of the individual. As they make their journey back, the terrain becomes more difficult to navigate. Steep mountain paths, crumbling rocks and a steady 'traffic' of other miners and tourists are a constant challenge. A step in the wrong direction can mean death.
At the sulfur collection base, each load is weighed. The higher the weight - the higher the pay. The average wage, despite being extremely low by 'Western' standards is at least twice higher than anything the men could earn elsewhere in rural Java. Those who have the energy or large debts, make two and even three trips to Ijen crater and back.