Sulphur Miners of Mount Ijen

June 2008

Mount Ijen, Banyuwangi, East Java

It takes 1.5hours to climb down to the base of the crater. I gave up halfway, the sulphur dioxide fumes proved too piercing to my lungs and eyes. My throat was sore for the whole day after only spending few hours up the volcano.

It is amazing how these sulphur miners carry their heavy 80-100kg load of sulphur up and down the crater and breathing and working in unbearable conditions filled with sulphur dioxide fumes. The visibility was quite limited and only every once in while does it clear a little to reveal a few moments of the lake.

Many of these miners worked til their late forties, it was one of the better paying jobs in the impoverished region. Each of them start making their ascent up the volcano in the dark, a few hours before dawn and ending their work just before sunset. Its tough work but for many of them, this is the only way to feed their familes.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater
Base of the crater, every or so moment, it clears a little to reveal the base of the crater. This is where the miners work, breaking up pieces of sulphur.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Nothing lives up here, even the trees died, poisoned by the lethal fumes of sulphur dioxide.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Where the wind blows across the top of the rim, it becomes unbearable and almost unbreathable. The miners have no more than their clothes to cover their mouths, little use to protect them from the accumlative toxic fumes. Most of them would not live past their 50s.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

A miner making his way up the ardous rim from the base of the crater, carrying an average load of 80-100kg. Climbing down the rim and ascending up the rim is dangerous enough, not to mention carrying beyond human weights.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Midway down the outer volcano, a young miner checks the weight of his load. He gets his money based on the amount of sulphur he brings down.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

The weighing station in the middle of the volcano route. This is where some of the sulphur is collected and weighed before making its way down to the main collection office.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

Each Miner has his own load of sulphur. He collects and gathers his baskets of the sulphur up from the crater rim before making the steep descent down the hill.

Mount Ijen Sulphur Crater

It is amazing how these miners could carry loads than more than double their body weights.


One response to “Sulphur Miners of Mount Ijen

  1. what do they use the sulphur to make? great photos thanks for sharing.

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