IJEN, Indonesia - November, 1998
In East Java, Indonesia, hundreds of miners face deadly smoke to mine sulphur, or “devil’s gold.”, found inside the still active Ijen Volcano. They risk respiratory illness and death to haul 200-pound loads of sulphur up the crater walls to sell. Throughout their workdays, the miners battle toxic fumes and it’s common for miners' shoulders to swell for the weight of their loads. Running down the sides of the sulfur mounds are pipes laid by the miners which reach deep into the volcano, channeling the sulfur laden gas which cools at the surface allowing the ‘yellow gold’ to condense and gather in vibrant yellow pools. All over this man-made sulfur hill miners can be seen feverishly chipping away at solidified sulfur, gathering large chunks for the arduous climb out of the volcano\, with the sulfur hung from two baskets on the ends of poles the miners climb back out of the crater. Most of the miners are barefoot and the strain from the weight of the sulfur arches their backs, digging the poles deep into their backs. Despite the miners’ strength, few can manage to walk more than 50 meters without stopping to rest. The scent of traditional Indonesian cloves fills the air whenever the miners rest, offering a well needed break from the stinging fumes of Ijen.