In Indonesia labors collect noxious sulphur with bare hands

In Indonesia, labors collect noxious sulphur with bare hands

11:10 AM, 11th July 2014
In Indonesia labors collect noxious sulphur with bare hands
A miner carries basket loaded with sulphur.

EAST JAVA, INDONESIA: In Indonesia, people are found collecting sulphur from their hands to make matches and white sugar. Several hundred men work in the heart of Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia collect yellow lumps of sulphur that solidify beside its acidic crater lake. Once processed, the sulphur is used to bleach sugar, make matches and fertiliser, and vulcanise rubber in factories at home and abroad. The traditional sulphur miners of East Java in Indonesia bear the scars of their labour - poisoned lungs and skin criss-crossed with burns and scars. The miners have little in the way of protective gear beyond a damp cloth to cover the nose and mouth as gloves and gas masks are unaffordable.


Pipes are driven into the fissures in the rock to extract sulphur from the bowels of the mountain. It is blood red when molten, and turns yellow as it cools and solidifies.


In the past 40 years, 74 miners have died after being overpowered by fumes that can suddenly swirl from fissures in the rock. The poisonous clouds are not steam, but hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide gases so concentrated they burn the eyes and throat, and can eventually dissolve the miners’ teeth.

An active vent close to the lake shore is used for the sulphur mining operation. The water in the crater - which is one of the world’s largest - is acidic enough to dissolve clothes, eat through metal, and cause breathing problems.

Pipes are driven into the fissures in the rock to extract sulphur from the bowels of the mountain. It is blood red when molten, and turns yellow as it cools and solidifies.

The miners break the cooled sulphur into chunks, and load up their wicker baskets for the 200 metre climb back up out of the crater. Each man carries up to twice his body weight from the crater to the weighing station part way down the mountain.

 

© BBC News

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