In September 2007 the company secretary, my Moroccan researcher and I were generously welcomed and given a tour of the Rhassoul mining and primary production site.
At the Mining Site
Well off the beaten track, crossing the now desiccated Jurassic lake, herds of camels give way to goats. A Berber herder will be close by. Although the desert gives little for human subsistence, it is a retreat for a full chain of wildlife including large bright green lizards which dart under rocks faster than you can blink and the mysterious jackal who watches always from a distance.
View from the open chamber across the vast Jurassic lake. An approaching dust storm gives the desert a mauve hue.
Rhassoul clay miners are provided with accommodation in the mountain HQ. The recreational facilities, hammam bath, medical services, mosque etc. attest to the remoteness of the mine. It is a home from home – there is even a semi-feral jackal who lives in the camp, too shy to photographed properly.
This clay chamber was worked by two miners who alternated digging and removal.
The seams of clay are chased with a pick axe. Dynamite is never used in these mines. Several chambers are worked at once giving an average production of 12 tonnes per day.
The clay in clods emerges into the light of the day after laying in the earth for millions of years.
At the primary production site
The clay is washed in mountain source river water and aerated by being turned in vats.
The rhassoul clay seams are found between layers of crystallized gypsum. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, tiny earth tremors and animal activity has caused little fragments of gypsum to migrate into the clay layer. In this photograph, the clay is about to be sieved to remove any extraneous matter.
The clay is poured on the ground for drying.
The clay is dried for 24 hours by the pure desert breeze blowing from the Sahara and the Atlantic. In harmony with the natural crystal structure of each clay particle is charged under the sun and the moon.
The dried clay is ready to use. We have ours milled to increase its activity.