A mountain close to a phosphate mine in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Portrait of a man in Mdhilla. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

In Gafsa, a phosphate mining region in the southwest of Tunisia, a state-controlled company called CPG extracts phosphate from the hills.

Mining, an important economic resource for the Tunisian economy, has been practiced since Roman times.

The local mining villages of Redayef, Mettlaoui and Oumm Laarayes, are rich in resources but marginalized by the government. They remain poor and polluted, a conduit for wealth. Meanwhile, coastal towns prosper.

Workers lured from Libya, Morocco, Algeria and around Tunisia live on this nearly uninhabitable land. Ethnic divisions, exacerbated by life in a harsh landscape, have produced disharmony between the people and nature.

These incompatible parts remain in a state of constant flux and volatility.

This is my testimony of the harshness of the place, balanced I hope by the humor of the inhabitants and my affection for them.

— Zied Ben Romdhane

Estuary of evacuated chemical waste in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A crack in a government building. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A former phosphate mine worker in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

This railway transports phosphate from villages to the chemical factory in the Gulf of Tunisia. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Construction of a road in the village of Gafsa. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Sidi Abou Ali, a holy man, performs the rite of exorcism in the Nafta Mausoleum. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A train in Redayef transporting phosphate. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Chatt Essalam chemical waste that’s been released into the sea. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Walls of a kitchen in the town of Mittlaoui destroyed by a mine explosion. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A mine worker with a broken back. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

An old underground mine in Redayef. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Zeyda in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Industrial construction in Oumm Laarayes. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A weekly explosion at the mine site in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Chatt Essalam chemical waste in the sea. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A man playing with his donkey in Sagdoud. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

The ground near the chemical manufacturing plant in Chatt Essalam. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A boy plays with a refrigerator near the chemical plant in Chat Essalam. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Amara was a freedom fighter against the French occupation in Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Stockpile of phosphate. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

A boy playing in Mdhilla. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

The chemical manufacturing plant in Chatt Essalam. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Rocks from the phosphate mine are used for building houses. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Site of phosphate processing. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Traces of birds close to the chemical plant in Chatt Essalam. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Mittlaoui. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

The final production of phosphate in Thelja. (Zied Ben Romdhane)

Zied Ben Romdhane (b. 1981, Tunisia) is a photojournalist and practicing artist. His recent exhibitions include Views of Tunisia (Arles 2013), After the Revolution (White Box, NY 2013), and Zones d’Attente (Clark House, Bombay 2013), kushti (maison de la tunisie, Paris 2013), fotofest biennieal in Houston Center for Photography (Houston, USA 2014), Sahel (1×1 Gallery, Dubai 2014) and Trace (MUCEM, Maeseille 2015). He won the POPCAP award (Afric Image, Basel, 2015).

His work has been featured in Irada and Dégage. He is the DOP and producer of “Sabaa Chicken” (2010), and “Fallega” (2011), a documentary film about the Arab Spring in Tunisia. To see more of his work, visit his website.