Where Heaven Meets Hell

This hits quite hard on a monday afternoon. Shit, this hits hard on any given afternoon. Where Heaven Meets Hell.

The simple act of striking a match, adding a generous spoonful of sugar to a morning cup of coffee, riding a bike or getting into a car, is everyday fare in much of the world. But if asked if sulfur mining had any bearing on their lives, few citizens of the world would know how integral it is.

Kawah Ijen is an active 8530 feet tall volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Inside the crater of the volcano lies the largest lake of sulfuric acid in the world (650 ft deep). Exquisitely beautiful visually, it is the site of a gruelingly labor-intensive sulfur mining operation. Here 200 miners collect and carry huge loads of pure sulfur as they trek up along a rocky 4 km path out of the crater, amidst clouds of noxious sulfur dioxide gas. They then climb down to the village at the base of the volcano unload, only to repeat the round trip journey again before the day ends. The miners will then sell the sulfur to the government for a small fee, equivalent to about five dollars a day. The government exports the sulfur, which is then used for bleaching sugar, producing fertilizers, black gunpowder, matches, insecticides, and fungicides and for vulcanizing rubber.

The miner’s physical pain can be excruciating, accidents are common, and exposure to the sulfur dioxide gases leads to chronic lung diseases. Because they are making more money than they would be making if they were to stay in their villages and farm, they continue mining in hopes of building financial security for their families, and ensuring that their sons will not become miners at Kawah Ijen. Sadly, the average sulfur miner at Kawah Ijen only lives till the age of 40, usually forcing their sons into their jobs, and thus creating a cyclical pattern that passes from one generation to the next.

This film will look at the question of economics and poverty in the third world nation of Indonesia, by examining the lives of several sulfur miners and their families. Yet the pivotal issue, which this film will address, is the lack of safety precautions, inadequate medical care and the absence of hope that exists for these people. By giving them a voice, I hope to bring their story to a broader audience, which can perhaps lend them some real assistance.

Thanks Vaya for the hat tip!

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