Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

The sulfur in your match head comes from the earth just like any other ore. However, most other minerals aren't still excavated by hand. From the edges of giant acid pools.

The Ijen volcanos are located in East Java, Indonesia and offer a prime source for sulfur. Volcanic gasses condense as they move up through ceramic pipes implanted in the volcanic rock. As the gas cools, turns to molten sulfur and leaks out of the pipes, and hardens into the smelly yellow rock we're familiar with. Once it's hard, crews break apart the sulfur blocks, load them into baskets, and trundle them up insanely steep hills to the rim of the caldera. For reference, the baskets weigh about 200 pounds and they're being carried 980 feet up a 45 to 60-degree slope all in front of a 600-foot-wide pool of liquid death (that isn't steam in the picture, it's a cloud of sulfurous gas). After reaching the summit, workers then have to descend nearly two miles to the base of the mountain for weighing. On average, a basket of Sulfur will fetch $13 and miners will make two trips every day.

The 200 miners employed at Ijen excavate 14 tons of material a day, just 20 percent of what the mountain produces. [Wikipedia, Environmental Graffiti via Neatorama - Image: Matthew Harrigan]

Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

Image: Bertrand Claude

Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

Image: Bertrand Claude

Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

Image: Bertrand Claude

Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

Image: Bertrand Claude

Farming Sulfur on the Edge of an Acid-Spewing Volcano Is Just as Miserable as It Sounds

Image: Bertrand Claude