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A view of the tunnel opened for tourists

Khewra Salt Mines is a salt mine located in Khewra, Jhelum District, Punjab in Pakistan, about 160 kilometres (99 mi) from Islamabad and 260 kilometres (160 mi) from Lahore. It attracts up to 40,000 visitors per year and is the largest salt mine in the world. Situated in the foothills of the Salt Range, the Khewra Salt Mines are the oldest in the South Asia.

Salt has been mined at Khewra since 320 BC, in an underground area of about 110 square kilometres (42 sq mi). Khewra salt mine has estimated total of 220 million tonnes of rock salt deposits. The current production from the mine is 325,000 tons salt per annum.

The mine-head buildings have 19 stories, with 11 below ground. Only 50% salt is extracted and 50% is left as pillers to keep the mountain. The salt-mine is 288 metres (940 ft) above sea level and extends around 730 metres (2,400 ft) inside the mountains from the mine-mouth. The cumulative length of all tunnels is more than 40 kilometres (25 mi).

Salt occurs in a Pre-Cambrian deposit in the form of an irregular dome-like structure. There are seven thick salt seams with a cumulative thickness of about 150 meters. At places the rock salt is 99% pure. Salt is transparent, white, pink, reddish to beef-color red. There are beautiful alternate bands of red and white color salt.

A small Mosque made of salt bricks inside the Khewra salt mines complex

Contents

Discovery of the mine

It is said that when Alexander visited South Asia, coming across the Jhelum and Mianwali region, Khewra Salt Mines were discovered. The discovery of the mines, however, was not made by Alexander nor his "allies", but by his horse. It is stated that when Alexander's army stopped here for rest, the horses started licking the stones. One of his soldiers took notice of it and when he tasted the rock stone, it was salty thus leading to the discovery of the mines.

Afterwards this mine was wholly purchased by a local Raja and from that era to Independence of Pakistan this mine remained property of locally living Janjua Rajas who were sons of Raja Mal.

They are linked to the nearest place called Malot Fort constructed by Raja Mal Janjua.

Tunnels Design

The current design of the tunnels inside the Mines was prepared by Chaudhry Niaz Ali Khan, a civil engineer.

Miners Resistance to the British

In March 1849, the British captured the salt mines and a resistance movement began against the poor conditions and prices imposed upon the miners.[1]

From 1849–62 there were strikes which were heavily suppressed and in 1872, new methods of measurement and pricing were introduced which increased workload. Mines were locked so miners couldn't leave without fulfilling their quotas. Men, women and children all worked in the mines and some children were even born in the mines due to the conditions imposed.

Further strikes were carried out by the workers from 1872–76. This time, the Chief mine engineer Dr. Warth got Delhi Head Office Collecter H.Wright to bring in British soldiers. Twelve of the workers representatives were shot at the front of the mines. Their names were:

  • Abdullah
  • Mohammad Sardar
  • Mohammad Hassan
  • Nawab
  • Allah Baksh
  • Khuda Baksh
  • Mohammad Abdulla
  • Jawaia
  • Paira
  • Mohammad Wahid

Their graves are outside the middle gates of the mines.[2]

West Pakistan Salt Miners Labor Union

More recently the miners won an important environmental case against the mining company for the provision of unpolluted drinking water.[3] This case is internationally recognised as important in showing the relationship between the environment and humanity.[4][5]

References

  1. ^ http://jeddojuhd.com/mag_2008/May/15_21_may/08-09_1.jpg Khewras Mine Workers Struggle and May Day, Jeddojehed Magazine, Pakistan Labour Party - accessed 29/08/08
  2. ^ http://jeddojuhd.com/mag_2008/May/15_21_may/08-09_2.jpg Khewras Mine Workers Struggle and May Day, Jeddojehed Magazine, Pakistan Labour Party - accessed 29/08/08
  3. ^ General Secretary, West Pakistan Salt Miners Labor Union Khewra, Jhelum v. The Director, Industries and Mineral Development, Punjab, Lahora, Human Rights Case No. 120 of 1993, (1994) S.C.M.R. at 2061.
  4. ^ http://www.unescap.org/drpad/vc/document/compendium/pk1.htm UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
  5. ^ http://www.unhchr.ch/environment/bp4.html UNHCR paper on Human Rights and the environment

See also

External links

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