This region of northern Mali has been known for centuries for its rock salt mines. Although this salt is popular, industrial exploitation is struggling to start. It is with rudimentary tools that the salt plates are extracted.
Mohamed Alhamdou has been working for nine months in one of these pits. “Extracting the salt is very hard. You have to be resourceful. Some can extract up to six bars of salt a day and others three. There are people who remove the layers on the salt, everyone has his task here”, he explains.
In this vast desert area, extraction is done at any time. Prices vary depending on the quality of the salt. “Often when the activity works out, we can reach up to 1,000 workers, and everyone works for himself. There is not a fixed time at which work begins. It’s not like in the administration. Some start at night, others at dawn, others at daytime”, says Mohamed.
Regarding the price, “the first quality of salt costs 5000 FCFA. It has a component that is sold at 2500 francs. The second is worth from 1000 to 1250 FCFA and the last is left for the consumption of animals”. Sometimes salt is traded for food and nonfood items because of the high cost of living in the mine. “We also barter with truckers, they bring us what we don’t have like rice, millet and clothes and we trade all that with salt”, adds our interlocutor.
The salt of Taoudeni is very popular for its virtues. After the extraction on the site, the salt which was formerly transported by camel caravans is increasingly done with vehicles. It is routed to several localities in Mali and the sub-region.