By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans
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Videographer / director: Joel Santos
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Marcus Cooper
The salt mines, situated in the Afar triangle, stretch across 100,000 square kilometres and at their lowest point are more than 300 feet below sea level.
Professional travel photographer and videographer Joel Santos travelled to the area to capture the dry beauty of this brutal expanse of land.
He said: “I felt the urge to tell the story of the salt miners. They work on the hottest place on earth and earn not much more than 100 to 200 Euros per month.
“The locals live a harsh life, probably one of the toughest there is in the world.”
The Danakil Depression - specifically the area surrounding Lake Afdera - is where almost 100 per cent of salt production in Ethiopia comes from.
Every day approximately 2,000 dromedaries and 1,000 donkeys pass through to transport salt tiles to Berahile about 75 kilometres away.
Workers often mine in temperatures that rarely drop below 122 Fahrenheit and start work early in the morning to avoid the extreme heat as the sun reaches its peak.
Joel said: “The air is so dry that the desert does not emanate a particular aroma.
“Nevertheless, near some flooded areas you can feel a salty aroma when you lie close to the ground.
“Most people don’t know that there’s a depression in Ethiopia. The harshness has a rare beauty to it and it’s amazing how the aerial footage unveils it in never before seen perspective, adding an even bigger dimension to what the miners face every day.”
About 1.3 million tons of salt are removed annually and 750 officially registered salt miners work in the area.
The harsh landscapes boast active volcanoes, malodorous sulphur-caked hot springs, black lava flows and salt-encrusted basins.
Blocks of salt once acted as currency in the region but it has now been replaced by regular cash.
The local Afar people have a strict monopoly over the Danakil depression and guard the salt fiercely - every merchant has to stop at a salt-tax collector’s hut before they leave to pay a fee for each dromedary, mule and donkey in his caravan.
“Whilst filming it, I learnt a lot,” Joel added.
“Especially when I had the privilege of meeting special people who live in such a hostile environment. I get the chance to grow as a person and value things differently.”