The crystal-clear chunk was extracted from the Artyomsol salt mine in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.An underground chamber at the mine, created after thousands of tons of rock salt was extracted. Geologists working for the mine say less than 5 percent of the salt seam has been removed since operations began in 1881. An emergency escape ladder runs up one wall of a chamber in the mine, hundreds of meters beneath the surface. The vast salt seam under the town of Soledar, meaning “gift of salt,” was formed after an ancient sea in the region dried up reports Amos Chapple for RFE/RL.
The mine employs more than 2,800 people and supplies some 95 percent of Ukrainians’ salt. The business end of the combine, poised to grind the salt into an easily transportable powder. A worker pours freshly ground salt into a heap. From here it will be transported to the surface. These salt blocks, which sell for around 8 euros each, are used for “speleo rooms” — chambers built from salt that seek to recreate the allegedly restorative conditions of salt mines. A worker slices up blocks of salt. There is disagreement over whether inhaling salt dust is indeed the miracle cure for respiratory illnesses it is claimed to be. But after a Polish doctor noticed that workers in salt mines often avoided the lung diseases common to coal miners, the “halotherapy” industry was born.