PURWODADI, Indonesia (Reuters) - A volcanic mud geyser in Indonesia’s Java island is producing an unlikely source of income for local farmers — “sweet” salt.
The Bledug Kuwu geyser in Purwodadi, west of Central Java’s capital Semarang, has spewed out mineral-rich fluids for centuries, a phenomenon experts say results from geothermal motions deep in the earth.
The geyser contrasts with a destructive mud volcano in east Java near Surabaya that started last year near an oil drilling site and has swamped an area four times the size of Monaco and made thousands homeless.
The Bledug Kuwu geyser is proving handy for four innovative villagers who are turning material from the eruptions into salt.
During the dry season water from a 4.5-ha (11-acre) pool is collected in salt evaporation ponds.
“This salt is different from ordinary salt. It tastes a little bit sweet,” one of the salt farmers, Siyem, told Reuters Television.
One kg of salt costs 2,000 rupiah (22 U.S. cents), more than five times the price of ordinary salt, said Siyem, who works with her husband to produce the salt.
The couple can produce 40 kg of salt a week if the weather permits.
Siyem said she and her husband farmed the land when not making salt, which is only possible during the dry season when the weather is hot enough to evaporate the water.
“We make salt only as a side job, not our primary job,” Siyem added.
During the rainy season, the mud volcano increases its activity, spewing out more fluids.
Bledug Kuwu has also become an attraction among local tourists. Some visitors get a glimpse of the geyser eruptions from as near as 10 meters.
Bledug Kuwu looks like just another muddy pond. But every one or two minutes, the placid water erupts in an explosion of mud, followed by a plume of white steam.
The temperature is mild. Visitors can experience small, frequent eruptions from the mud crater.
Two spots where the geyser regularly erupts are called Mbah (grandfather) Jokotua and Mbah (grandmother) Rodenok. Locals believe these spots are sacred.