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Saturday, October 23, 2010

African White Gold

How is salt made

Thousands of years ago salt was more precious than gold and the Taoudenni salt mines were a valuable commodity.

Salt was not always convenient to buy as it is now. Everyone needed salt, but only a few people could mine the precious slabs of salt.


How is salt made? 

Taoudenni salt miner
Taoudenni salt miner

There are three methods used to produce salt; solar, evaporation and rock mining. The rock salt mining method is one of the oldest methods of producing salt. Salt appears in veins which are the original bedded salt deposits of ancient underground waters. 

Salt also may be found in vaults, which were formed when Earth pressures forced salt up through cracks in the bedrock. Rock salt has always been mined in the rocky under layers of the Earth's surface from ancient underground seas, lakes and rivers that have long since dried up.

African history of salt


Throughout history in many parts of the world salt has been hard to get, and people feared a lack of salt was parallel to the world ending. Since 1587, salt mining in Taoudenni located Mali, Northern Africa remains a trading tradition. Camel caravans have been traveling through the Sahara desert to the salt mines of Taoudenni in northern Mali to Timbuktu to mine rock salt for centuries.

Founded by the Imagharen Tuareg, Timbuktu in Mali was established in the 12th century, almost nine hundred years ago as a place where nomads could pasture and water their camels after traveling though the Sahara desert mining salt in Tauodenni. Timbuktu is located close to the river Niger that soon became known as a place for trading due to its location.


Timbuktu Taoudenni Rock Salt
Timbuktu Taoudenni Rock Salt
For the Berabish Tuareg, the salt caravan is not something just for money; it is tradition, a rite of passage. Trucks on unpaved roads through the desert now handle most of the trade replacing camels. 

Trucks can carry much more than camels since they move faster and do not require long periods of rest. In addition, with the changing climate and rain becoming scarce, finding water in the desert for camels to drink is an increasing problem. The camels hump is not used for water storage, but they do drink up to 20 gallons of water at a time.

Azalai (as-ah-lie) is the semiannual salt caravan route expertly navigated by the Berabish Tuareg salt miners in the Sahara desert between Timbuktu and the Taoudenni mines. The rock salt is extracted as slabs by hand weighing up to 132 pounds or 60 kilograms. 

The salt will be sold locally or shipped, mining and transporting salt is an exhausting undertaking nevertheless, the Berabish Tuareg salt miners sees the camel salt caravan as not just a trade for money; it is tradition, a rite of passage.


War costs in africa

How is salt made three facts

There are three methods used to produce salt; solar, evaporation and rock mining.

The largest source of salt is in our seas and oceans.

China is the largest salt producer in the world.


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