Indonesia’s largest sulphur mine is inside an active volcano and its miners risk their lives to harvest the yellow rock. It has turned into such a popular photo spot for tourists that many miners have quit to become tour guides
Ahmed Arifin makes his way slowly up the rocky path in the darkness, breathing heavily with 80kg of sulphite rock pressing down on his shoulders. One of his hands balances the load while the other carries a torch.
He carefully pushes his way through a stream of tourists who are on their way down to the volcanic crater lake where Arifin harvests the sulphite. Somehow he finds the strength to pose for a photo. Media-savvy Arifin, 47, has been a sulphur miner for 28 years and has had his picture taken dozens of times at this same spot, by tourists and international media alike.
Indonesia’s largest sulphur mine, nestled in the active volcano Kawah Ijen, a mesmerising sight. At its centre is a pale blue lake, from which gas rises and colours the surrounding rock yellow. At night, the crater presents another visual wonder as the sulphuric gas occasionally combusts, producing eerie blue flames that dance around the rocks.
Dozens of men like Arifin can be seen swaying under the weight of their bright yellow loads, completing several trips a night before day breaks and it gets too hot.
The dangerous spectacle is a photo opportunity that attracts thousands of sightseers each weekend. A crowd gathers in the parking and camping areas 4km downhill from the crater’s rim, and walks up once the gates open at 1am.
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