on Fri Apr 6 13:32:44 2012
To hell and back…every day: The choking sulfur mine where workers do 12-hour shifts at a LIVE volcano (and aren't expected to live beyond 30)
By Richard AshmoreThis is the grim sight that meets sulfur miners who are forced to scrape a living on the site of a live volcano.
PUBLISHED: 15:03 EST, 5 April 2012 | UPDATED: 15:05 EST, 5 April 2012
And not surprisingly, the horrendous conditions are to blame for them having a life expectancy of just 30 years.
As these sobering pictures show, around 200 brave souls toil up to 12 hours a day at the top of Ijen volcano, in Indonesia.
The men — who earn just £3 ($4.76) a day — carry baskets of hardened yellow sulfur weighing 70 to 90 kg (154-198 lb) up a steep rocky path from the crater floor around ten times a day.
The toxic air and fumes can be fatal if breathed too long at the mine where the men risk their lives to supply the hellish substance for oil and detergent companies.
Wearing little or no safety equipment, all they have to protect them from the fumes is a wet rag held to their face — or a gas mask if they're lucky.
Escaping volcanic gases are channeled through a network of ceramic pipes, resulting in condensation of molten sulfur.
Serious injuries, especially chest and eye problems, are common, but the income is twice that of the local coffee plantations.
And all this within deadly reach of the largest lake of sulphuric acid in the world. The pH of the 'water' is 0.5 — about the same as car battery acid.
The turquoise-colored acid crater lake is 1 kilometer wide and lies west of the Gunung Merapi stratovolcano — the highest point of the Ijen volcano complex.
Sulfur is a natural source of sulfuric acid, used by oil refineries and in the production of detergents and fertilizers.