Inside Indonesian volcano sulphur miners risk their lives
Hauling bubbling hot sulphur on their backs while scaling steep ravines, these are the hellish conditions facing Indonesia’s volcano miners.
Night time snaps show dazzling blue flames streaming down the cliff-face of the active Kawah Ijen crater, on Java island, home to the world’s most acidic lake.
Photographer Kurniawan Mas’ud, 33, visited the moonlike landscape to document the plight of miners risking their lives for as little as $AUD18.00 a day.
Most workers use nothing but a rag in their mouths to protect themselves from the noxious billowing fumes, while risking sheer drops into a sea of turquoise acid.
“This place is dangerous at all times,” Kurniawan, from Bali, said.
“The smell of sulphur is thick in the air. It stings the eyes, burns the lungs, and pollutes the skin.
“The steep ravine that made a treacherous journey on a 9,000-foot slope in darkness. Then it’s a 3,000-foot descent.
“To make things all the more dangerous, most of the miners can only afford minimal equipment and protection.
The eerie blue glow is the result of a combustion of sulfuric gasses which emerge from cracks in the 2,799m-high volcano then ignites, spewing flames into the air.
The gases also condense into liquid sulphur, which burns as it flows down the fog-shrouded slopes in lava-like fashion.
Once it solidifies, miners break up the sulphur with metal poles and lug it off the mountain on their backs in loads of up to 100kg.
It is then processed and used to bleach sugar, make matches, lotion, fertiliser, and rubber, the world over
Kurniawan revealed the extent of the back-breaking labour, saying: “sometimes the miners travel back and forth up the slope three times a shift.”
“In a day they can pocket up to 200,000 Indonesian rupiah ($AUD18.50). But the toxins in the sulfuric fumes are never forgotten.
“Residents in the neighbouring areas suffer gas poisoning from the crater.
“These miners have worked for generations, but the sense of danger is ever terrorising for them.”