At around 10,000 ft. elevation, a brine spring emerges from the mountainside. Since pre-Inca times, the inhabitants of the Sacred Valley have diverted this salt water into hand-hewn evaporation ponds. Once a pond is full of brine, the water is diverted into other pools. The water evaporates under the sunlight, leaving behind crystalized salt. There is no heavy equipment involved. Even hand-shoveling is rare except for maintenance, since the ponds being used have been around for 1,000 years. There are no pumps - all the ponds are gravity fed.
The salt pools are administered by a local cooperative. The cooperative grants Sacred Valley families the right to harvest the salt from a particular pond. Any local family can apply for the rights to a salt pond. Larger ponds are granted to larger families.Once a family’s salt pond has completely evaporated, the salt crystals are scraped into a central mound and then hand loaded into sacks.
The cooperative has a cleaning facility at the site of the salt pools. It employs local people to clean the salt crystals. Impurities and contaminants are removed and large crystals are broken down into a normalized range or grain sizes. All of these processes are done by hand.