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Traditional sulfur mining in Kawah Ijen

An Indonesian miner breaks chunks of sulphur using a stone at the crater of the Kawah Ijen volcano, Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesian, 24 October 2012. (EPA/BAGUS INDAHONO)

Traditional sulfur mining in Kawah Ijen

Kawah Ijen in East Java, Indonesia, is the site of a traditional sulphur mining operation. The 2,600-meter-high volcano is topped with a large crater and a one-km-wide and about 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. The status level of the active volcano has been raised by the Indonesian government to 'vigilant' in July 2012 and is still in effect today. Residents and tourists have been advised to stay clear of a 1.5-km radius from the crater.

Nevertheless, more than 200 sulphur miners still work at the crater lake in a traditional way, amidst toxic fumes. The sulphur is channeled through a network of pipes. The molten red liquid that pours out and turns yellow as it solidifies is then hewn by the miners and carried on foot from the crater down the mountain for weighing. The miners carry loads up to 90 kilograms to the weighing station and some make more than one trip a day to earn about 70,000 to 80,000 IDR (around 6.4 Euros). The miners often do not have proper protective clothing and suffer serious health problems such as burning pain of the eyes and throat as a consequence.

The sulfur is then used in sugar refineries and for other industrial processes. (EPA)