Campina de Cima, a rock salt mine beneath the city of Loulé in Portugal, has recently taken on a new role as an exhibition space for a marine art show.

'Ocean: Sea is Life' installation view (2024). Photo by Techsalt.
‘Ocean: Sea is Life’ installation view (2024); Photo: Techsalt.

These 25-mile tunnels provide salt for animal feed and de-icing roads, but they have also hosted public guided tours for the last five years. The mine’s salt galleries are approximately 754 feet beneath the city and almost 100 feet below sea level, making them Portugal’s deepest tourist site. The salt itself is also approximately 230 million years old.

Inaugurated on February 17th, the space is now being used for an exhibition titled  ‘Ocean: Sea is Life’. The show was created by artists from the Portuguese David Melgueiro Association, which campaigns for ocean clean-ups and has a goal “to provide operational and logistical support for scientific and technical activities, aimed at preserving the marine environment”.


Mining activities also continue alongside the guided tours, which explore the machinery used and the life of Saint Barbara, who legend says lived in the 4th century and is the patron saint of miners.

Saint Barbara statuette in Campina de Cima mine. Image via My Guide Algarve
Saint Barbara statuette in Campina de Cima mine; Photo: My Guide Algarve

Keeping with the tradition in the tunneling industry of setting up a shrine to the saint underground, “Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Miners and Other Arts” is a permanent exhibition at the Campina de Cima. They also boast to have one of the world’s largest collections of objects relating to the saint.

The saint was also the subject of the first-ever art exhibition held in this space in 2022, which featured the works of German painter, Klaus Zylla. These various art installations were planned by the management company TechSalt SA with the hopes that the mine could become an attraction for the Algarvensis Geopark, which has aspirations to become a UNESCO site.

Their website states that they “want to reuse the mining space in an innovative way, contributing to the dissemination and promotion of Earth Sciences, Mining Industry, and Art.” The newest exhibition runs through the end of April.