About the pictures
Kawah Ijen stands at 2640mt and is an active volcano in East Java/Indonesia. It also is the site of a labour intensive sulphur mining operation where 300 workers extract sulphur every day and night, climbing the volcano and descending the slope with baskets full of the yellow mineral, weighing between 70-100 kilograms per basket.
They are constantly exposed to choking gas and temperatures surpassing 37 degrees Celsius. Using metal poles they hack out chunks of the element from the rock. The workers install long pipes into the fumaroles to collect the hot liquid which drips out and solidifies as it cools. They then load their baskets with 150 to 200 pounds of sulphur chunks and then start a 4km trek up out of the 300m crater, and down to the weighing station at the base of the volcano.
The sulphur is then sold to diverse companies such as the sugar and paper industry which use it for bleaching. Sulphur can also be used in medical drugs producers and high powered explosives.
These men do not have a direct employer and neither do they follow safety standards. They risk themselves every day carrying heavy loads on their backs down mountainsides and use a wet rag to breath through the dioxide gasses. This has caused major cases of respiratory problems similar to severe asthma.
Their daily reward is no more than 8 dollars. They work in the mine, despite having a life expectancy of about 30 years and yet this pays marginally better than being a farmer.
Kawah Ijen is also home to the largest lake of sulphuric acid in the world. The ph acidity of the lake water is 0.5, which is similar to the strength of a car battery. Birds have been reported to drop dead from the lake's fumes and to fall into the waste as they fly overhead.
This incredible and surreal place remains a popular volcanic tourism attraction in Indonesia. Any tour of the crater is suspended after 2pm for the increase of thick and poisoning smoke.