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June 1, 2009 Permalink

Sulfur mining in Kawah Ijen

In East Java, Indonesia lies Kawah Ijen volcano, 2,600 meters tall (8,660ft), topped with a large caldera and a 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. The quietly active volcano emits gases through fumaroles inside the crater, and local miners have tapped those gases to earn a living. Stone and ceramic pipes cap the fumaroles, and inside, the sulfur condenses into a molten red liquid, dripping back down and solidifying into pure sulfur. Miners hack chunks off with steel bars, braving extremely dangerous gases and liquids with minimal protection, then load up as much as they can carry for the several kilometers to the weighing station. Loads can weigh from 45 to 90kg (100 - 200 lbs), and a single miner might make as many as two or three trips in a day. At the end of a long day, miners take home approximately Rp50,000 ($5.00 u.s.). The sulfur is then used for vulcanizing rubber, bleaching sugar and other industrial processes nearby. (22 photos total)

A traditional miner carries sulfur from the Ijen volcano complex on May 24, 2009 outside Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
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145 comments so far...

Amazing photos

Posted by Thomas Byrdal Christensen June 1, 09 12:45 PM

Interesting look at such a simplistic method for extracting sulfur. Very dangerous, very odd, somewhat intriguing.

Posted by Beaker June 1, 09 12:54 PM

Amazing series, once again

Posted by Frederik June 1, 09 12:56 PM

And I was just complaining today about my back hurting as I sit im my office chair. Talk about a slap in the face wake up call.

Posted by Trev D. June 1, 09 12:59 PM

The guy in photo 12 looks like Ichiro.

Posted by pk June 1, 09 01:00 PM

The Documentary "Working man's Death" has a great section on what I believe are these same sulfur mines.

Posted by Templeton June 1, 09 01:01 PM

Thanks for these pictures !!!

Posted by Zun June 1, 09 01:04 PM

Darren Almond's 2007 film "Bearing" covers this well.

Posted by Anonymous June 1, 09 01:07 PM

Given the choice between this or working at a sweat shop producing tennis shoes I know which one I'd go with.

Posted by Colin June 1, 09 01:16 PM

#16 makes me count my blessings.

Posted by Jeremy June 1, 09 01:16 PM

I want to buy them a cart

Posted by Simplicio June 1, 09 01:17 PM

$5.00 u.s. for a day of work in those conditions, that's terrible.

Posted by Dusan Vlahovic June 1, 09 01:17 PM

I can't imagine how bad that must smell (sulfur tends to smell rather strongly of rotten eggs, for those who don't know)... Hopefully it's something one grows accustomed to.

Posted by Sara June 1, 09 01:18 PM

these guys are very brave and hard-working...

Posted by Broomstick June 1, 09 01:18 PM

An outstanding photographic documentary. The photographer, Ulet Ifansasti, displays a diverse collection of strong images that really tells the story of the hard life of these miners.

Posted by Kurt K June 1, 09 01:18 PM

I love these bizarre topics. I had no idea about any of this.

Posted by Al June 1, 09 01:19 PM

Someone needs to give these people an old truck and a few tankfuls of gas.

Posted by Jon Kovac June 1, 09 01:27 PM

Am i missing something? Why don't they use wheeled carts or something?

Posted by Chris June 1, 09 01:42 PM

Lovely pictures~

Posted by Joe Numbers June 1, 09 01:49 PM

Astounding photos! Thanks Alan and!

Posted by Judy (Sumrall, Ms) June 1, 09 01:55 PM

Wow, number 2 is my favorite view. I couldn't imagine working with all that sulfer.

Posted by Jim Gaudet June 1, 09 02:37 PM
Posted by Romain June 1, 09 02:39 PM

This site was also featured in a scene in the fantastic documentary "War Photographer" about James Nachtwey. Nachtwey is arguably the best press-photographer in the world. The documentary is amazing, a must see for anyone interested in photography.

In the scene where Nachtwey shoots in this sulfur mine, you really get a good impression of how terrible this site is. Nachtwey were struggling to be able to breathe because of all the fumes and gasses. I can't possibly understand how it is to work in such a place every day...

Posted by André Rakvåg June 1, 09 02:40 PM

Worst job ever.

They should save for a week and buy/make a wheelbarrow. I imagine they have thought of this though, so there must be more behind their chosen carrying method.

Posted by Anonymous June 1, 09 02:52 PM

They use the baskets as opposed to a wheelbarrow because of the steep inclines they have to go up and down. A wheelbarrow would be in effective at doing this.

Posted by Valcoris June 1, 09 03:07 PM

You know if a couple of these guys got together and got some micro business loans and got a truck they could make a whole heck of a lot more money.

Posted by RJ June 1, 09 03:38 PM

Imagine the lessened toll on the miner's if they had wheelbarrows to carry the sulfur with.

Posted by amoconnor June 1, 09 03:59 PM

Yeah, RJ, they would, except a truck won't get you anywhere if there's no road for it.

Posted by danvolodar June 1, 09 04:00 PM

slap me if i ever complain about my life

Posted by Eugene June 1, 09 04:00 PM

Never again will I strike a match and not think about what I just saw...

Posted by Weejy June 1, 09 04:24 PM

Well, Broomstick, I don't think they are brave, just poor.

Posted by Solhoej June 1, 09 04:29 PM

the wheel has not been invented there yet. i thought everybody knew this. sheesh.

Posted by qwert June 1, 09 04:34 PM

"Never again will I strike a match and not think about what I just saw..."

remove guilt, buy a lighter ;D

Posted by internetlawls June 1, 09 05:01 PM

There are mountains of sulfur sitting outside oil refineries across Canada and the US that are going unused because of the cost of shipping. Where does this sulfur go? Does it stay in Indonesia?

Posted by Darth Curt June 1, 09 05:14 PM

qwert - you're not funny.

pretty obvious why they don't use wheeled transport if you look at the terrain.

This is not the fault or responsibility of the workers; it just shows how they are being taken advantage of. Their ultimate employer (chemical company) should improve work conditions as this is terrible to see. All for what the rest of us would spend on lunch without even thinking. And don't think or a minute that '$5 goes a long way in Indo' as the (forced) devaluation of so many currencies (in order to prolong debt and increase trade profit) means that $5 will buy you less and less.


Posted by scannermobs June 1, 09 05:52 PM

Las fotos son preciosas! Pero que condiciones de trabajo tan terribles.

Posted by Fer June 1, 09 05:54 PM

Talk about "hellish" working conditions ;)

Posted by Jason June 1, 09 06:01 PM

Such hard work and I bet it doesnt smell very good either!

Posted by lisa June 1, 09 06:19 PM

Pics #16 and #18 are great. Lol @ comment 32 :)

Posted by Apoelistas June 1, 09 06:20 PM

For only $5 a day? This breaks my heart, and at the same time makes me so very grateful for the comparatively "plush" job that I have stocking store shelves all day for $7 an HOUR.

Posted by Amanda June 1, 09 06:57 PM

#22 careful, those things will kill ya!



Posted by kevin halse June 1, 09 07:21 PM

Amazing pics, amazing story! Eye opening!

Posted by Sean June 1, 09 07:35 PM

If this mine shut down, what would these people do?
Just curious....

Posted by Rob June 1, 09 07:51 PM

Interesting how the companies pay $5 a day to people to do back-breaking, life-shortening labour, so that they can vulcanise rubber to make it weather-proof, producing things that i presume would be expensive luxuries somewhere like Indonesia, and are general purpose objects we take for granted in the west. I assumed that there would be sophisticated, mechanised techniques for this mining process, not that the seals on my motorbike are made possible because of a group of exploited people doing a job that will shorten their lives. That our society keeps people in poverty so that we can have things cheaper is a real slap in the face.

While it's true that $5 will go further in Indonesia than say the US, the argument is a bit moot anyway: looking at these guys, they are clearly far poorer than I am, and far poorer than anyone else I know, in real material terms, so the relative value of our different currencies is irrelevant.

Posted by Chris June 1, 09 08:33 PM

Worst part is for those workers is that they are constantly breathing in sulfur trioxide which converts to sulfuric acid in their lungs, mouths, throats, and on their skin. The average life-span of a miner is about 35 years if they aren't killed by an accident.

Posted by Reverend J June 1, 09 08:45 PM

If you ever complain about your job, now you guys should be gratefull for eating donuts and coffe in your offices

Posted by Anonymous June 1, 09 09:52 PM

Dear All(Everyone who has posted a msg here),

Most of you guys just comment on how great photo have been taken or how lovely or amazing it is... You guys don't feel how the real person would have been suffering will mining the sulfur... At least be a human, and please comment to support them not to make fun of them... Sorry if any of you felt bad, but i wanted to say the truth. All of us get our basic necessity in life through persons who are working in harsh conditions... Answer rob question - If the mine is shutdown these person die due to hunger. Thanks for the photos & I am sure your photos will help their cause....

Posted by Anonymous June 1, 09 10:43 PM

I need to learn to count my blessings with thanksgiving ... Beautiful story & photos, as usual. Thanks guys.. Keep on doing the good work!

Posted by :D June 1, 09 10:53 PM

pobre gente...

Posted by Facu June 1, 09 11:13 PM

Reminds me of some RTS game, lol.

Nice photos.

Posted by Anonymous June 1, 09 11:16 PM

Recuerdan a Marjora Carter y la justicia ecologica, no es tambien necesario que este tipo de labor como muchas otras se humanize , quienes son los que sacan provecho de esta gente donde estan las fotos de esas empresas y personas que les malpagan , que hace el amigo Sokolov y su estudio de abogados.

Posted by Miguel Bonilla June 1, 09 11:20 PM

Great series on horrendous life conditions.

I think what pictures ultimately fail to portray at Kawah Ijen is the rush to go inside the crater to pick up the sulfur. At noon the wind turns and carries the toxic gases directly to the workers. And so not only do they have to carry heavy loads for almost no money - they have to do it as fast as possible to make as many pickups as possible.

Posted by Okay June 1, 09 11:51 PM

sulfureux !

Posted by Alizé June 2, 09 12:13 AM

I was there 5 days ago!
The pics on the site are beautiful. This could be one of the toughest jobs on earth. Not only do the workers have to breathe that heavy sulfured air ( we had what they called a clear day and had trouble to breathe ) they have to make it up the crater and down the mountain with weights ranging from 60-100 kg.
Good ones make 5$ a day. This means about 3 trips up and down, where one trip took us about 2 and half hours without carrying the sulfur.

note : I almost burn my hands by putting them in the lake!

Posted by JF June 2, 09 01:07 AM

I've been there too in April this year, try to lift it myself. It didn't work and i am twice as big as those guys! Not only 70kg but up to 85 kg!Twice a day, 2x 3,5hours. 600 rupiah per kg, that makes about 100000rp a day, 7Euro.

Posted by G.J. Ploegers June 2, 09 01:43 AM

Guys there are really very hardworking...

Alan, Thanks for all the photos and captions you publish....

Posted by Santhosh N June 2, 09 01:50 AM

FYI, even in Indonesia, $5 is not enough for a decent meal.

Posted by CA Hutagalung June 2, 09 02:44 AM

The Sulphur they are mining will not smell like rotten eggs, that smell is caused by Hydrogen Sulphide gas which is a very small proportion of volcanic gasses and is extremely toxic. The main sulphorous gas from volcanic activity is Sulphur Dioxide which when combined with water is what causes the Sulphiric Acid of the lake, it is still a dangerous gas but no where near as bad as H2S.

Posted by Jormagandr June 2, 09 02:51 AM

isn't it great that these workers can do their jobs without the government interfering? i mean, in america, there'd be some bureaucrat saying "these are inhumane working conditions!" as you can see, when you just sit back and let the free market work its magic, things are better for everybody

Posted by youngcon June 2, 09 02:55 AM

Thanks Boo stoon gl, good pic...

Posted by michael June 2, 09 03:28 AM

I visited this place in 2004 but I didn't have the courage to go near the pipes. I did enjoy the view surrounds the crater. The path to the crater is mostly steep and slippery. It was hard to go up dan down the path for me without that heavy load so it was amazing to know that they can do it everyday. Thanks to Alan Taylor, Ulet Ifansasti and for these amazing pictures :)

Posted by Dian June 2, 09 04:26 AM

The high price paid by these workers for low prices in our western shops and malls...

Posted by tonic June 2, 09 05:52 AM

#20 is awesome!

Posted by Luciano Stabel June 2, 09 07:23 AM

And suddenly that last picture of the cigarette doesn't seem so bad.

Posted by SeanD June 2, 09 08:44 AM

Qwert, you've quite a sense of humor there...

And, yeah, Scannermobs, it was funny. Lighten up, will ya.

Posted by William C June 2, 09 08:58 AM

It is so easy to forget how good we have it. Thank you for reminding all of us. It is astounding to me how hard they work, how much risk they endure for $5 a day. It breaks my heart... it is even worse to think that things I purchase are contributing to this.

Posted by Tucker June 2, 09 09:13 AM

These pictures look like coming from old fairytale. Mining tirelessly, near the lake of lava. Everywhere yellow, red, then through the patch of green with heavy burden. Burnt eyelashes and scarred backs and shoulders.

Just amazing.

Posted by Taimo Peelo June 2, 09 09:44 AM

Hmmm... could they use donkeys (or some other animal) to carry that stuff? Or are the hills too steep for them too?

Cool photos!

Posted by Henrik June 2, 09 11:26 AM

Relative to our lifestyles, such suffering is occuring in our creation of man-made 'things'. Scaling the trek of these men must have been an absolute experience. Nice work!!

Posted by Anji June 2, 09 12:32 PM

For those would could not figure out why not truck nor wheel carts are used, check out numerous photos of this place: Kawa Ijen on flickr

Posted by hey June 2, 09 12:56 PM

#29 commenter, I agree. Geesh, that's a tough life.

Posted by Julia June 2, 09 01:12 PM

Hello I was there also in 2004 (Here some of my pictures : not as great as these but ...)
The sulfur is extracted inside a volcano, the workers have to go down through a very steep stairs that is unreachable for donkeys. I was also in the extracting part, it was very difficult to breath because of the sulfur steam. The steam is also very stinging and my eyes was crying. But they have to put some water to cool down the place. The guys have to carry these 80 kg for one hour at least. Most workers comes from very poor part of Indonesia and mining here is a little more paid so ... The sulfur miners have a short life and most die before 50. Cigarettes or not it's the same for them so most of them smoke to have a little sweet time.
It's hell on earth.

Posted by Romain June 2, 09 02:37 PM

I've been to Indo and $5 is plenty of money to live on. Nasi goreng is 8000.

Posted by Dick June 2, 09 05:27 PM

These photos gave me an "otherworldly" feeling. Miners in a camp near one of the active volcanoes on Io perhaps ... a long way from home at any rate.

Posted by Rob Mahan June 2, 09 05:31 PM

Great photo collection. Gorgeous photos of a livlihood that's backbreaking yet workers still smiley proudly in the photos.

Thank you TBP for showcasing such a wide range of topics.

Posted by AN June 2, 09 06:37 PM

$US5=IDR 50,000. A standard local restaurant meal in East Java cost 1,000. A month's accommodation would be about 30,000 maybe less. It's hard work, but there's not much else available for unskilled workers except farming, which is also backbreaking, pays much much less and not always available. If the company brought in trucks, donkeys or wheel barrows, most of the workers would become unneccessary and therefore unemployed. Someone said their life expectancy is 50 years. That surprises me, as a lot of Indonesians doing clerical work in Jakarta don't live that long.

Posted by Monyet Miskin June 2, 09 08:41 PM

I cannot believe these guys are doing such hard work for so little money and no gear guarding against the fumes. I could barely stand to be near a volcano because the noxious gases from sulfur made my eyes tear up, yet here these people spend relentless hours doing this hard labor with no protection or relief.

It looks like the guy in the first photo is coughing. Is there anything I can do to help these people? $5 will never be the same to me again.

Posted by spleeness June 2, 09 09:06 PM

as indonesian ...
im proud bout the view of this site
but i cry bout those people..

thanks all for comment this photo...

Posted by ronal June 2, 09 10:15 PM

So does it weigh up to 155 or 200 lbs? Could you make up your mind?

Posted by mr.ancient June 3, 09 01:16 AM

When I was there I've heard that a lot of them was farmer during summer and miner in winter, but I coul not check. They also said that they don't do this job for life because it's too hard, but they also said (like some of you suggested) that it's a well paid job whan compared to farming.

Posted by Romain June 3, 09 06:05 AM

People personally I don't care about the quality of the pistures or the landscapes!!!!
These people inhale gases and substances that are lethal!!!
I feel really sorry for them and very angry with their employers.

Posted by Ioannis Hasikos June 3, 09 06:28 AM

you think they have health coverage by the sulfur buyers? im sure they life expectancy is short

Posted by alejandro June 3, 09 06:40 AM

All countries have to start somewhere. There is no way to get from where Indonesia is right now, to where America is without starting at the bottom. It's true, we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Do we deserve the wealth we enjoy more than these workers? The answer is "no" but hat question is irrelevant. A better question is how can we spread the prosperity that we enjoy, and the answer is to employ as many people as we can. There is a reason these guys do this, and it's because it is the best opportunity they have. As long as they are willing to take the best opportunities afforded to them, eventually they or their children will work themselves out of poverty.

Posted by Jonathan Baird June 3, 09 01:06 PM

I wouldn't last... Sulfur smells AWFUL. Kudos to them for doing such a dangerous job for so little.

Posted by Kent June 3, 09 01:20 PM

Isn't it great that these workers can do their jobs without the government interfering? i mean, in America, there'd be some bureaucrat saying "these are inhumane working conditions!" as you can see, when you just sit back and let the free market work its magic, things are better for everybody

If these people were unhappy - they'd go do a different job.

Power to those who choose their own professions!

Long live freedom, liberty, and capitalism!

Posted by DoGooder June 3, 09 03:57 PM

That is amazing. I hadn't realized there was a demand for the stuff. I worked for a few years at the Tengiz oil field in Kazakhstan. The oil there is very sour and has to have as much sulfur extracted out of it as possible before the oil is fit to be sold. As a result there is about 6 million tons of sulfur in 50ft high football field size blocks just sitting out in the open. Nobody seems to know what to do with it. I guess location is everything.

Here's a picture -

Posted by JonP June 3, 09 04:48 PM


Posted by tc June 3, 09 06:46 PM

I can't help but think that, when faced with such back-breaking labors, Western Europeans and Americans paused long enough to figure out more efficient ways of doing things and bettered their lives in the process. You know, the tractor, the bulldozer, the internal combustion engine, the weekend. Why don't these folks do the same? Why do they simply accept this miserable lot in life? I just don't get it.

Insensitive. OK. But these are valid questions, nonetheless.

Posted by DaveyNC June 3, 09 07:28 PM


Posted by Deric June 4, 09 12:46 AM

@William C:funny you find life so easy.No doub't that wheel comment had humor, but I guess it would no longer seem funny if you were in the picture.Isn't it? There is a reason why these people have to work this hard to get just $5 a day.Because someone at the top (the chemical company's boss) finds it funny to employ them.He himself is probably toying about in a Merc or some other sedan.And look around yourself.Its not just Indonesia.People are beaten to death by others in all coutries.The problem is not the coutry... the problem is a handful few opportunist, greedy, shlefish people who are killing everyone else for their profits.

Posted by Sumit Datta June 4, 09 05:40 AM

And to think that as Americans we think we have the right to complain about our jobs, our homes, our incomes or our lives in general!

Posted by Jazz June 4, 09 09:08 AM

Quite an assumption that there are "employers" and a convenient demonization of "corporations" behind all this. The sulfur is purchased at a market by someone who knows what to do with it. He/she purchases it from these guys who choose to go and get it from where it is. Nothing is done at gunpoint. The workers know that if they make the trip and carry the sulfur out their wage is what the market pays. It is not western civilization's fault. Those finding fault as to why this happens are motivated by either guilt for their own lifestyle or envy for those who benefit from the workers labors. I agree that its awful, but lets get real on why it happens.

Posted by JL June 4, 09 11:54 AM

I'm curious why there are no pack animals being used, why the workers only make 2 trips per day if the weigh station is close or why they don't extend the road and move the weigh station closer if it's far. You often see people constructing highways by hand in China, and that makes me wonder if "keeping people employed" has something to do with the way that this work is being done here.

Posted by Wesley June 4, 09 12:07 PM

nice info and photos..

Posted by en_me June 5, 09 03:21 AM

risked their life to love in this world.
i salute the worker...
God bless them

Posted by kengkaru June 5, 09 07:26 AM

€7 a day or Rp100.000 a day... so a month would be around Rp2.500.000 (€200) that's quite a lot in Indonesia. For a comparison Rp2.500.000 is a month salary for fresh graduate (Bsc) in a big city like Jakarta .. well imagine that :)

Posted by ds June 5, 09 08:50 AM

Johnanthan Baird, please watch 'The New Rulers of the World' by John Pilger, then maybe you will understand your massive ignorance. What you say is very easy from a western perspective, and you are not really to blame as this is what you are told by press, business and politicians. Please watch the documentary, available online or on DVD.

Posted by scannermobs June 5, 09 09:37 AM

Let's see that guy from Dirty Jobs try *this* on for size!
I wonder what the lifespan is for these guys.

Posted by kevjohn June 5, 09 05:32 PM

The world is realy bad!!
I want to get off!

Posted by Anonymous June 6, 09 01:08 AM

Terrific photos of a hell on earth. I was there last month but didn't make it to the vents. You showed me what I missed.
The guys were still toiling away, seemingly cheerfully. They must be the toughest men in the world. I couldn't lift one of those baskets, let alone carry it up out of the crater and 4km down the hill. I think all other alternatives for extraction there have been tried and failed. The thing about machinery of any kind is that it corrodes away in that atmosphere. People dont...for a while...and there are always guys willing to take that risk. Not many of them make it past 50.

Posted by davidb June 6, 09 02:21 AM

Some people had questions about why they take so few trips or why they do not use animals and about the conditions. My wife and I were just there in January and the conditions and travel are not easy. The workers must first carry the sulfur up winding paths of uneven and slippery stones out of the crater. This is discounting the fumes from the wife could barely stand to even be close to it and it burned the hairs in your nose and made it hard to breath. Once they are out of the crater, they must also travel down the crater, which is 3 km almost straight down on a path hardened by years of travel. Some are barefoot and along the way there are places where they can stop to rest and put down their packs. We stopped and talked to a few in what little Bahasa I knew from my friends in Malaysia. We gave some men some water and helped a woman down the mountain who hurt her leg. Another reason why they do not make more trips is because of the heat...they start work very early...we were there at 7 am and they were already making trips down. Many of the workers are also farmers, so they must go from this job to the fields near the jungle area. I had a chance to talk to one of the bosses and a wife of a worker through our guide. I am amazed at these people...they are very hard working, friendly and do this work day after day to provide for their families. A great picture of the human condition and a way to remember how good we have it and by what means we get that easy life. Thank you to the hard workers here and elsewhere throughout the world!!

Posted by Dan Mueller June 6, 09 08:05 PM

what's the profit margin of the sulphur company? 10000000000000%???

Posted by bigco June 7, 09 04:17 AM

it occurs to me to say a big "WHY" let people overthere suffer such a lifeshorthening routine.........................let everyone who is moved by these starts doing something to change that him/her-self.......... it doesn't matter "HOW" as long as there be a substantial acts to make that happen ..................................I will, how about you?

Posted by Hank June 8, 09 05:02 AM

I went there few years back, and it broke my heart just to witness how harsh life can be. They don't use truck or any other carrier because the road to go down is very steep. I fell few times just to go down and these men still can make jokes while carrying those super heavy loads. Bless their soul.

Posted by Lovely June 8, 09 09:25 AM

Superbes photos !
C'est vraiment le hasard, car je reviens de vacances à Bali le 24 mai justement.
Sur place j'ai visité ce volcan et son cratère de souffre.

Que de souvenirs~

Posted by Jenny June 8, 09 10:03 AM

I learned to count my blessings with thanksgiving thru these great pictures, the Story within the pictures tell itself. As a father and a son like me, #16 & #18 are very touching...


Guys, keep up the good work!

Posted by JOHN BELLEZA MATEO - Pililla Rizal, PHILIPPINES June 9, 09 12:04 AM

wish i could mail them some asphalt, a bulldozer and some tar!
for the tons of people brilliantly suggesting a wheelbarrow: I'm sure there's no way any of these guys could spend on gas masks, building a road (after chopping through the crater walls), a truck or gasoline, not when your $5/day goes towards feeding your wife+kids, probably mom+pop as well....
excellent photography.

Posted by GanjaManja June 9, 09 02:17 AM

Let's see...there are 107 comments so makes 108. Why don't all of us pitch in $100 each and let's see...that would be $10,700 minimum.

I bet that is more than enough to put in a road in Indonesia and I would even go and help. Heck..I'll put in $1,000.

Who's game?

Posted by Victoria June 9, 09 09:48 PM

This is the result of the corruption country ( Soeharto era ) for 32 years, ignored the education, economic centralize government and created a big gap of the poor and rich peoples.
Out of this there are more worst jobs than this in this country, and paying is less than 5$, go to Borneo ( Kalimantan Forestry ).

Posted by Gunawan June 10, 09 08:20 AM

Hope God gives them better health and better earnings----this situation is almost unbearable, the people suffering with long-term health implications. Cannot the international organisations like WHO and UN do something about such situations?

As individuals, is there something we can do for these people? I would be happy to help

Posted by N. Sundararajan June 10, 09 11:44 AM

This job involves alot of heat, sweat, strength and determination.
Hats off to you men and all your hard efforts.

Posted by denise June 11, 09 07:05 AM

why they are on the back, rather than pull carts at any?

Posted by Noka June 11, 09 01:48 PM

Those of you suggested they should get a truck and gas, if they do most of them will have no job, and all negative comes with running a truck pollution, maintenance costs, fuel etc. and regarding the wheelbarrow or cart, remember gus that is the mountain no on flat ground it will ten times harder to use wheelbarrow than the methods they are using now.

Western people think of easy solution not looking on a long term results.
leave it just the way they are , the work they are doing is their gym , yoga, Pilate and abs machine etc,

Posted by kumar john June 16, 09 06:07 PM

people have to realize that a few hundred years ago, similar back-breaking, toxic-inhaling terrible conditions were what the average westerner did working in factories, mines, building railroads.

the difference is that in the west the people of the country did it to build up their country and support themselves. now, all over the world people are working in similar conditions but for exporting outside of their country, not allowing their country to build up.

we find these conditions shocking (rightly so) because we (in parts of the western world) no longer have to live like these because our ancestors did and improved our countries for us. unfortunately, that just doesn't seem to be happening in countries around the world anymore.

Posted by jenna June 19, 09 09:36 PM

Wow absolutely wonderful, but goverment will can provide to these people a truck in order to avoid the painfull :( this world it is no just people should be the same in all senses have everything like all :(

Posted by Jess June 25, 09 08:12 PM

i feel pity with these people. i know some of you feel the same way as me, but from the pictures, they keeps smile and working hard for 5 bucks to buy some meal to feed their family.
the company or the government wants the business side only or more-or-less in profit aspect. they must do something about the social aspect. they could install some kind of human power crane/belt/rolling/process factory in the area, give them fast work, less time in the area. other than that, extra payment for health care and medicine would be great!
overall, i agree with you everybody.

Posted by andy July 7, 09 08:02 AM

I never been there but I know about this condition.Surely these persons are hardworkers and eager to take any risk to get 5 bucks.5 bucks are very less in this days of inflations and sky rocketing food prices.They deserve better payment,health insurance surely and medicine and food money.

Posted by hestutianty July 15, 09 07:32 AM

The pictures and some sympatic comments make my cry...
it's so sad to see something like that.
Anyway, these pictures tell the truth: it's hard to make money in my country, Indonesia.

Posted by Ical July 18, 09 12:38 PM

was there long long trime ago :)
[ how was there ] miss it

Posted by August 14, 09 08:26 PM

it's my lovely country and lovely people.....

Posted by philip August 30, 09 04:18 AM

More pictures and mineralogical/geological information here

Posted by str4hler September 1, 09 04:52 PM

Think you're having a bad day?...

Posted by the vugster September 2, 09 09:50 AM

FTW! i really wish i would see more comments of people asking how they can help instead of just commenting on how "wonderfully" the pictures are taken. or tapping into intricate political and socioeconomic subjects with little to no information about them, and just spewing out presumptuous statements.

Posted by Satan October 7, 09 09:44 PM

dangg i didnt know sulphur could do that to a person. owwww

Posted by kayla October 15, 09 01:34 PM

doesn't $5 go very far there?

Posted by hi October 22, 09 10:17 PM

Thanks for this..the photos are good
I think it should be passed on to a Social Studies discussion
As a kid going or travelling through Mexico, realized how
much of labor is dirty and dangerous...
In Japan, because most people consider themselves
middle class and it is a very cohesive society, one tended to
forget that there is real, grinding poverty and that the working
poor suffer a lot...

Posted by Waconda December 4, 09 11:50 AM

These are by far the best images about the crater and the sulfur mining I have seen.
Excellent work!

Posted by John Dampf January 11, 10 10:13 AM


Posted by THALIB February 11, 10 11:51 AM

i would hate to have that job it would kill me

Posted by bob don February 22, 10 09:26 AM


Posted by Hermawati February 28, 10 07:14 PM

its unbearably hard work, i lifted some of these 'hods' and i could barely walk never mind climb (the pictures are great but dont convey the steepness of that crater wall, 1km straight up.Its also unbelievable to imagine under such conditions spirits are really quite high the workers joke with each other, poking each other when one is carrying stone.The humour gets them through the day no doubt. Great bunch of blokes...

Posted by farid March 6, 10 11:22 AM

Yeah, 50,000RP is actually a bit of money in indo'

Posted by Anonymous...... March 29, 10 11:53 PM

Enjoyed your photos very much.I'll be there in early June 2010.Hope to capture some good pics and give something to the poor miners(foodstuff).

Posted by anthony dass(Malaysia) May 8, 10 12:15 AM

Reality of Indonesia,,, great photo :)

Posted by Yudi June 18, 10 06:56 AM

I am doing a science report on sulfur. We all chose our mineral randomly so it is exciting to see how important this mineral is to some people.

Posted by ashley October 12, 10 09:47 PM

really hard worker who does not know never give up in order to achieve the goal of meeting the needs of life ..... may god always protect

Posted by amelia November 20, 10 09:09 PM

Amazing photos.. very sad conditions. For a mere $5 a day these men are slowly being poisioned to death. Inmates in US Prisions live a heathier life. Its very sad.

Posted by Thomas December 13, 10 09:47 AM

Yes, our unions and slowly educated legislators finally changed the 10+ hour days, 6 days a week, $1 a day jobs of the 1890's America that crushed a lot of people, but here there were also alternative opportunities open to some workers, and things gradually changed. I suppose that in Indonesia there are not many alternative opportunities, and I am sure that our numerous extortionate corporations making their profits from backloads of sulphur, etc., etc., will contrive to keep those opportunities and rewards at a minimum. What is humane has no quantification on their "Bottom Line." Sabotage first meant throwing a sabot (shoe) into the gears in the factory, But how can one effectively sabotage a corporation?

Posted by J. Paton Marshall December 13, 10 05:09 PM

amazing !!

Posted by Anonymous December 25, 10 03:44 AM

Are there any charities t help these people and their working conditions. They need their jobs but what can we do to lighten the load?

Posted by Laura January 9, 11 07:21 AM
141. Big Picture are always amazed and inspired me.
Co-incidently I lived near by Kawah Ijen, only 6 hours away by land.

I'm not a professional photographer, just want to share kawah Ijen from another angle. Check it out on the bellow link.

Posted by Putu Adi January 11, 11 08:33 AM

I just watched a tv program about this and decided to look it up on the net. Really amazing of the human spirit to do this sort of work. On the documentary it showed a 52 year old guy who couldn't work, sick and had it family being looked after by his eldest son and guess what he was doing, a sulphur miner!

I think even if the government closed this mining down someone would still find a way to mine it.

Great images, show the hardship the pain but most of all the human spirit to provide a living for their family.

Posted by virago January 18, 11 09:33 AM

From wikipedia, "However, although very pungent at first awareness to the human nose, hydrogen sulfide quickly deadens the sense of smell, so potential victims breathing larger and larger quantities of it may be unaware of its presence until severe symptoms occur (these can then quickly lead to death)."

Nasty stuff, indeed. My hats off to them guys.

Posted by kortsleting January 29, 11 12:33 AM

thank u.
as indonesian iam totally glad...
we like it
we like kawah ijen more

Posted by MEME April 3, 11 10:25 PM

Are there any websites available where you can donate/buy mask, gloves, or even shoulder pads to help lighten the load for these men?

Posted by KHYTO May 3, 11 03:26 PM
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