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The Strange Beauty of Salt Mines

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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. [31 photos]

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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. (Reuters/David Mercado)
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. (Reuters/David Mercado)
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. (Reuters/Ivan Alvarado) #
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. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel) #
Two employees of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in storage chamber number 7 in the former salt mine Asse in Remlingen, Germany, on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. The former mine is used as a deep geological repository for radioactive waste. (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach) #
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. (Reuters/Enrique Castro-Mendivil) #
Pools of salt at the Maras mines in Cuzco, Peru, on February 17, 2010. (Reuters/Enrique Castro-Mendivil) #
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. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) #
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) #
A small boat quay on a lake at the bottom of Turda salt mine in Turda city, Romania, on December 9, 2010. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images) #
An aerial view of the salt fields of Palibelo village, on the outskirts of Bima, on Indonesia's Sumbawa island, on November 22, 2012. (Reuters/Beawiharta) #
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. (Reuters/Michel Laplace-Toulouse) #
A camel caravan at the edge of the salt pan in Ethiopia's Danakil depression, near Dallol volcano, on November 29, 2004. (Reuters/Michel Laplace-Toulouse) #
People collect blocks of salt from the salt pan of Ethiopia's Danakil depression, on January 29, 2007. Generations of Afar salt merchants have hauled blocks of salt along treacherous camel caravan routes from the depression to the Tigray highlands. (Reuters/Michel Laplace-Toulouse) #
Tourists guarded by local policemen visit sulphur and mineral salt formations created by the upwelling springs of Dallol volcanom on January 29, 2007. (Reuters/Michel Laplace-Toulouse) #
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) #
A salt waterfall in the Nemocon salt mine, on September 26, 2012. The mine is one of Colombia's most popular tourist attractions. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez) #
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) #
A halite salt crystal in the shape of a heart, illuminated from within, in the Nemocon salt mine in Colombia, on September 26, 2012. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez) #
A laborer works at a salt production factory in Nangqian county, northwest China's Qinghai province, on July 24, 2007. (Reuters/Simon Zo) #
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. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
Miners walk in the Polkowice-Sieroszowice salt mine in Polkowice near Lubin, Poland, on July 29, 2011. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel) #
Part of the salt sculpture The Last Supper is pictured at The Saint Kinga's Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland, on December 15, 2011. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel) #
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. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) #
A truck drives between ponds at Rio Tinto's Dampier Salt Limited's production facility at Port Hedland, about 1,600 km (960 mi) north of Perth, Australia, on May 26, 2008. (Reuters/Tim Wimborne) #
The underground Lake Wessel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine, on July 10, 2007 in Poland. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images) #
Abid, a laborer covered in salt powder, poses for a photograph while cutting rock salt for decoration pieces in Khewra, Pakistan, on August 4, 2007. The Khewra Salt Mines are said to be the second largest salt mine in the world. (Reuters/Adrees Latif) #
Mohammad Shabbir, 36, applies the final touches to a sculpture made from rock salt on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, on June 29, 2011. (Reuters/Mani Rana) #
Workers build a hotel of salt blocks on the Salar de Uyuni, the world's biggest salt desert, in southwestern Bolivia, on July 14, 2007. (Reuters/Jose Luis Quintana) #
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) #
A worker's son plays in a salt pan near Bhavnagar, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, on March 5, 2009. (Reuters/Arko Datta) #

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