By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung

WELCOME to the ‘Gateway to Hell’ - where salt miners dig out the ‘white gold’ in one of the hottest inhabited places on Earth

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The Danakil Depression, located in Ethiopia's Danakil Desert, has been dubbed 'the hottest inhabited place on the planet'

For centuries Ethiopians have made the long trek to the Danakil Depression to collect salt from the sun-blasted earth before transporting the slabs back by camel.

Parts of the region are more than 300 feet below sea level, forming a cauldron where temperatures reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and active volcanoes roil.

The landscape of the Danakil Depression is hauntingly beautiful - studded with active volcanoes and malodorous sulphur-caked hot springs

These stunning pictures taken by photographer Massimo Rumi show the harsh working conditions endured by the thousands of camel herders and salt extractors each day.

Rumi said: “The salt miners work under very tough conditions, in which temperatures hardly drop below 50-60 degrees celsius, even early in the morning.

For hundreds of years the Afar people have produced salt by cutting blocks from an 800m thick layer of salt

"Their working hours are early, before the sun gets too hot and makes the work impossible.”

The landscape of the Danakil Depression is hauntingly beautiful - studded with active volcanoes, malodorous sulphur-caked hot springs, solidified black lava flows and vast salt-encrusted basins.

Massimo said: “Visiting this place feels like being on the Moon. It is so surreal. It’s a place of genuine, raw adventure.”

Massimo said: “Visiting this place feels like being on the Moon. It is so surreal. It’s a place of genuine, raw adventure.”

Famous British desert explorer Wilfred Thesiger once described the Danakil Depression as "a land of death"

The salt blocks, which were once used as a unit of money, are sold across Ethiopia, many of them to farmers to provide their animals with essential minerals - with Ethiopia containing the largest livestock population on the African continent.

Swirling sulphur and mineral salt formations can be seen in the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest environments on earth

The Sydney-based photographer said: “As soon as I got out of the car I realised why this place is called the ‘Gateway to Hell’. It is one of the hottest places on earth and I could feel the heat on my skin.

“Still for centuries the Afar return to this extremely harsh and inhospitable place to carry out an important job.

Rumi said: " It is a real adventure that will put you out of your comfort zone and reward you for visiting one of the world’s wildest places"

“I came here to meet the hard-working salt diggers, who spend a good part of the day in this cruel environment cutting and shaping the salt into books and loading the camels.”

Around 2,000 camels and 1,000 donkeys come to the salt flat every day to transport the salt tiles to Berahile

The salt miners break plates of salt out of the ground - then use an axe to chop the crust of salt into large slabs, before workers fit a set of sticks in the grooves made by the axe.

The salt is cut in blocks of the same size that are loaded on camels and transported to Berahile, about 75 km away

Working life is harsh for the thousands of camel herders and salt extractors, who use traditional hoes and axes to carve the 'white gold' out of the ground.

Massimo said: “Working with the sticks, the workers lift the big slab of salt which is cut into tiles of standard sizes.

Working life is harsh for the thousands of camel herders and salt extractors who use axes to carve the 'white gold' out of the ground

"They earn around four Birr for each salt tile they cut, around twenty cents, and on a good day they can make up to 200 tiles.

“The camels and their keeper then walk for three days from the mines to a salt trading town called Berhale where the salt is traded.

Massimo Rumi captures a breathtaking photo of Lake Asal’s vast salt plains

"From Berhale the salt is transported to the Ethiopian highlands and on to Sudan. The salt fields supply nearly 100 percent of Ethiopia’s salt.

Rumi said: “The camels and their keeper walk for 3 days from the mines to a salt trading town"

“Because of safety issues this place does not see many visitors in the year. It is a real adventure that will put you out of your comfort zone and reward you for visiting one of the world’s wildest places.

The salt miners work under very tough conditions, in which temperatures hardly drop below 50-60º, even early in the morning

“The workers may look skinny but they’re very strong. It looks like one of the worst jobs on earth but these people stay very humble and proud of their work.”