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The regional significance of the potash deposits in the Danakhil depression, Ethiopia

The Danakhil depression is a regional structure in Ethiopia that extents over about 450 km from the Gulf of Djibouti to the NW approximately parallel to the Red Sea coast. It has a maximum width of about 75 km. On surface the SE part of the depression is dominated by recent volcanic rocks with only local windows to the sedimentary rocks below. The part NW of the Erte Ale volcanic structure at an elevation lower than 100 m below sea level is dominated by recent evaporite rocks and alluvial fan deposits with only few recent volcanic structures and is the focus for this contribution.

Although already since the early twentieth century potash and sulphur were mined from the region providing an incentive for investigations, the first regional geologic studies were published only in the 1970’s. These studies were based on interpretation of aerial photographs with minor ground checks. Although recently some further papers about the region have been published, the wealth of information about the regional geology that has been obtained from potash exploration that started in 2008 is hidden in publically accessible technical reports, not usually in focus of geo-scientists. The exploration targeted a neogene or quarternary potash-bearing evaporite sequence within the NW part of the depression. In this contribution we want to present some consequences for the understanding of the regional geology that were developed as a by-product of more than 10 years of potash exploration in the Danakhil depression.


Sebastiaan van der Klauw1, Christian Fritze1, Stephan Pfeifer1
GeoBerlin 2023