Salt, an essential element for all animal life, is abundant here on Earth, but it still requires extraction from stone deposits or salty waters. The process of mining that salt can produce beautiful landscapes, including deep, stable caverns, multicolored pools of water, and geometric carvings. Some of these locations have even become tourist destinations, serving as concert halls, museums, and health spas touting the benefits of halotherapy. Collected here are images of salt mines across the world, above and below ground.
One of the colorful brine pools that are part of a lithium salt pilot plant on the Uyuni salt lake, which holds the world's largest reserve of lithium, located at 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above sea level in southwestern Bolivia, on November 5, 2012.
An aerial view of the brine pools and processing areas of the Soquimich lithium mine on the Atacama salt flat, the world's second largest salt flat, in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, on January 10, 2013.
A saltwater pond in Nemocon's salt mine in Nemocon, Cundinamarca, Colombia on November 22, 2012. The mine, 80 meters deep, with over 500 years of history, has become a new tourist destination in Colombia.
(Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images) #
Tourists visit The Saint Kinga's Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland, on December 15, 2011. According to the Supervisory Board of the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the historic mine extends for a total of about 300 km (186 miles) and functioned continuously since the Middle Ages until 1996 when the salt bed ceased to be exploited completely. The mine, which is on the UNESCO's Cultural and Natural Heritage list, currently serves tourism, museum and health purposes.
A worker walks through pools of salt at the Maras salt mines in Cuzco, Peru, on July 3, 2009. The Maras mines have been a source of salt since ancient pre-Incan civilizations and nowadays comprise about 3,000 small pools constructed on the slope of a mountain at the Urubamba valley in the Andean region of Cuzco.
A tourist takes pictures inside Praid Salt Mine, 350 km (215 miles) north of Bucharest, on March 4, 2013. A part of the mine, located 160 meters deep and 1.3 km from the entrance, is open to tourists and is also used as therapy for respiratory problems such as bronchitis or asthma, having a highly ionized air and a higher atmospheric pressure than on the surface.
Salt layers reflect in the inner lake of Turda salt mine in Turda city (450km northwest of Bucharest), on December 9, 2010. One of the most important salt mines in Transylvania, central Romania, Salina Turda has been known since ancient times, but was put into operation for underground mining work during the Roman period.
(Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images)
Ethiopia's Danakil salt pan, near the Dallol volcano, on November 29, 2004. Dallol is unique in the world because is the only volcano situated below the sea level in Danakil depression, also known as Afar, one of the hottest places in the world with temperatures sometimes over 60 degrees Celsius in the sun.
A mountain biker competes in the 21st "Extrem Mountainbike Race", on November 17, 2007 in the "Glueck Auf" pit of a former salt mine in Sondershausen, Germany. Around 50 athletes took part in the competition at a depth of 800 meters, where temperatures are at 30 degrees Celsius (86 F), and humidity reaches only 20 percent.
(Jens-Ulrich Koch/AFP/Getty Images)
The Donbas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Austrian Kurt Schmid, plays in a salt mine chamber - 300 meters deep, 120 meters long, and 30 meters tall during a concert in Soligorsk, Donetsk region, Belarus, on October 2, 2004. The concert was organized in the mine for its good acoustics.
(Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
Pools of mineral-colored water gathered on salt flats in holes dug by salt collectors on the Senegalese coastline near the border with Gambia, on June 12, 2006. Women collect salt by hand into 50kg (110lbs) sacks, which sell for about $2, and are traded with neighboring Gambia and Mauritania, where salt is mainly used for preserving fish in areas without electricity.
A woman walks across salt flats being cultivated for the white crystals near the village of Ngaye-Ngaye, 10 km (6 mi) south of Senegal's northern town of Saint Louis, on April 9, 2007. Some 3,000 people, mostly women, spend long hours under the blinding sun scraping up salt with sticks and their hands, earning the equivalent of a dollar or two per day.
A visitor offers prayers in a mosque made of salt bricks inside Pakistan's centuries-old Khewra salt mine, on March 30, 2010. The centuries-old salt mine is offering experimental allergic-related asthma therapy, attracting patients from all over the world. Clinics claim that asthma patients and sufferers of other respiratory illnesses benefit from inhaling antibacterial salt particles in a sterile environment, helping loosen mucus and clear the lung passages.
(AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)