By Yusuf Ahmad
I can feel the strong sun’s sting when, for the first time, I set foot in Palu, a city on Sulawesi island. The city is growing slowly as it is still recovering from ethnic and religious conflict in the early 2000s. As I stand at the city center I can see the top of Masomba mountain wrapped in clouds with the blue sky in the background. However, traveling to the Masomba area is not easy. I go with a local gold miner on a motorcycle.
There are two ways to get to the area. You can cross several rivers or take a mountainous way. The second way is harder as the road is severely damaged.
I arrived at the mining location in two hours. I didn’t expected to see tens of thousands of people at the feet of the mountain in temporary housing and tents. Not far from the houses and tents, the hill was filled with gold miners.
I took a brief rest, studying the situation and interacting with the locals before I started to take out my camera gear. I greeted every miner I met with a smile, giving them signals so my presence could be accepted. Then I started to take pictures of their activities. I only used a Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN camera and a wide angle lens to avoid attention. I also had a small fanny bag with a telephoto lens and flash.
As I reached the top of the mining area, I saw many holes made by miners formed into tunnels. The length of the tunnels varied from 10 to 80 meters. I entered a tunnel about 15 meters in length. There was, apparently, a spacious room inside but it was suffocating with barely any air circulation. There were five miners carving stone thought to contain gold. I could only stay inside for 20 minutes. I decided to get out of the holes after taking just a few pictures.