Do you think your work is hell? Thank your lucky stars you didn’t have to mine sulphur for 12 hours in a volcano crater filled with toxic fumes that will probably kill you before you are 30.

This is the job from hell. Breathing in stinking toxic fumes. Hour after choking hour. Walking for miles, weighed down like pack mules carrying loads of up to one hundred kilograms, in temperatures few could bare. All, for as little as a few dollars a day. How long would you last, working in a live volcano? The climb to the top of Mount Ijen, on the Indonesian island of Java, was physically demanding. However, nothing could mentally prepare me for what I would see at the bottom of the crater. Nothing.

Around 200 of these brave young men toil on the crater floor of the Ijen volcano in Indonesia. Each morning, they make the 2,000-metre climb to the crater before descending down steep, dangerous paths into this fiery hell-on-earth. The miners load their creaking bamboo baskets with broken chunks of hardened yellow sulphur 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. They have no special equipment to assist them with the mining and no protection from the poisonous fumes that the volcano constantly expels. The job of the men at Ijen Crater might be one of the most difficult and dangerous in the world.

A miner extracts sulfur from pipe at the flow crater at the Ijen volcano complex
A sulfur miner stands inside the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano at night
A sulfur miner stands inside the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano at night
A miner carries sulfur from the Ijen volcano crater wall to his baskets
The molten sulfur emerges from the pipes colored deep red, and gradually turns a yellow shade as it cools and hardens.

13 thoughts on “Volcano Crater Sulphur Miners, A Job From Hell”

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