Few months ago I went to Ijen crater at Mount Ijen, Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. It is known for beautiful landscape and phenomenal blue fire.

The most brutal and life-risking job in there is a sulfur miner. They have to deal with slippery pathways and dense sulfur smokes. Not to mention the heavy load they have to carry. For some people, its simply unworthy, but it’s a life for someone. Behind a breathtaking view of Ijen, there is a true story of a hard work for a living.

They seem to always have a smile upon their faces, but hopefully one day they will get a more appropriate reward. Hopefully this story makes us to respect and be more grateful  for what we have.

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The blue fire phenomena

The blue fire is ignited sulfuric gas, which emerges from cracks with temperatures up to 600 degrees Celsius.

Accompanied by blue fire

Miners start their work at midnight.

Breaking up the solid sulfur

The solid sulfur is naturally in form of gas, gushing from the sidewall of the crater.

Taking the hot liquid sulfur from a drum

Then the gas is distilled by flowing it into the bottom through pipes and is stored in perforated drums. Finally the gas turns into liquid and then solidifies as exposed by cool air.

The yellow chunks

This is it. Their gold.

Various handicraft molds made by the miners

Not far away the other miners performed different activities, making handicraft mold from sulfur. They poured the liquid sulfur into plastic molds. They were in a shape of heart, flower and famous characters’ figures and then they sell it to the visitors. Looks like miners are trying to take an advantage of the high number of tourists so they can earn money in an easy way.

Performing a strength test

Now it’s time to fill the baskets with yellow chunks. Miner puts fully loaded baskets on two iron columns and performs strength test to ensure he will able to carry them until its end point. Usually every miner is able to carry 70 kilograms at once, 2 times a day.

The crater and the miners

Its a beautiful place, but a brutal and life-risking job.

A breathtaking view of Ijen

A wonder of nature.

The real hard work was about to begin

Sometimes they cough while covering their nose and eyes with a damp cloth when the sulfur fumes strikes.

Up to the top of the rim

After the miner put the load on his shoulder he has to bring it 600 meters up. The only thing he can do now is to stay focused and don’t slip on the rocks. When he reaches the top side of the crater, he knows that the hardest part is completed.

What’s left on them

The scars on the shoulder due to heavy load.

When the sulfur fumes strikes

Such miserable conditions to work. But that doesn’t stop them from working. They have no special trick for this one. To minimize the health risks caused by sulfur fumes these guys just simply drink milk and lots of water every day..

Down to the shelter

After nearly an hour, they reach the top rim. Now they walk much faster. These hard workers walk two kilometers long road to the Pos Sodong. This is where they weigh their load.

Waiting for the call

Miners gather outside the house. One by one they are called by an officer from behind the booth to the house to weigh their load.

Scaling

One step closer to their finish line

The scaling result

A paper note is given by the officer to miners. Later they use it to cash their money.

Putting the chunks into the truck

Later on,  the chunks are brought into a truck which is parked next to the house. The truck will take sulfur to a smelter facility in Paltuding village about 12 kilometers away from Ijen. Raw sulfur will be processed and ready to use as ingredients for the chemical industry.

Got paid

In a booth on the other side of the house, they queue to get paid.

Today’s earnings

Today Muchtar, one of the miners, brought more than 65 kilos when the sulfur price was IDR 780 per kilos by that time. He was ready to go home to Banyuwangi, where his wife and a four years old son lives.

The miner

To become a sulfur miner is a tough job that most people never think of doing. Hazardous working area, high level health risk, heavy physical work, and low income – such hellish factors.However, for these man its a daily routine that must be faced.