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Mining in nature’s inferno

Matt Bullock

Each day the miners from surrounding areas make the perilous journey up to the rim of East Java’s Ijen volcano before descending into the depths of one of the most poisonous places on the planet. Here lies one the world’s largest sulphur mines.
The miners are exposed to deadly gasses bellowing out from the active volcano and toxic lake. They are often enveloped by thick plumes of noxious smoke that trap them, leaving them choking for breath until the wind clears the poisonous cloud.
A miner works to break up the bright yellow rocks of Sulphur after it spills out of ceramic pipes. These pipes channel the volcanic gases, condensing them to form solid sulphur.
Wearing just flip-flops, and with a piece of cloth over his mouth offering limited protection from the gases, a miner makes a steep journey bearing as much sulphur as is physically possible. This is hauled up to the crater rim and down the mountain.
Most miners manage two trips a day earning roughly $5 a trip. Their cheerful demeanour belies the fact that this hazardous work reduces a miner’s average life expectancy to barely 50 years.

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