In eastern Java (Indonesia) poverty, exploitation, corruption and modern form of slavery emerge from the Mount Ijen, the same way the sulfur spills out around here, uncontrolled. Miners must carry loads, which range from 75kg to 90kg for 5km. They get for each kilogram of hardened yellow sulfur 900 rupees (9 cents of a US dollar), and for 65 kg 54.900 rupees (5.70 US dollars). The Ijen is like a large acoustic room; every sound within it is amplified and heard. While going down one will hear the miners coughs and moans, and its cliché resemblance to Dante’s circles is astonishing. There is not sufficient oxygen for breathing, the extremely toxic smoke stings your nose, and the surrounding sound embraces you. Among this desperate group there are men of all ages working for a daily pay. Water in not enough and many of them suffer terrible injuries on their back and shoulders. This is the distinctive sign for the sulfur miners. It is a proof of how an unjust government and lack of adequate labor safeguards and rights can be.
I travel around the world covering social issues. I've been in places like Afganistan or Colombia. But I can say that one of the most sad stories I have covered so far is Sulfur Miners in Indonesia. Ijen is the mirror of corruption.
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Andrés Vanegas Canosa