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A salt mine at Lake Atanasovsko, near the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria

A salt mine is an operation involved in the extraction of salt from rock salt or halite, a type of evaporitic deposit[1]. Areas known for their salt mines include Kilroot [1] near Carrickfergus, Ireland (over 100 years old and more than 25 km of passages),Khewra in Pakistan, Tuzla in Bosnia, Wieliczka and Bochnia in Poland, Hallstatt and Salzkammergut in Austria, Rheinberg in Germany, Slănic in Romania, Provadiya in Bulgaria, Avery Island in Louisiana, United States, the wich towns of Cheshire and Worcestershire in England, and the Detroit Salt Company's 1,500-acre (10 km2) subterranean complex 1,100 feet (340 m) beneath the city of Detroit.[2] The Sifto Salt Mine in Goderich, Ontario, Canada is one of the largest salt mines in the world. It measures 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide and 2 miles (3.2 km) long.[3]



Prior to the advent of the internal combustion engine and earth moving equipment, mining salt was one of the most expensive and dangerous of operations. While salt is now plentiful, before the Industrial Revolution salt was difficult to come by, and salt mining was often done by slave or prison labor. In ancient Rome, salt on the table was a mark of a rich patron (and those who sat nearer the host were above the salt, and those less favored were "below the salt"). Roman prisoners were given the task of salt mining, and life expectancy among those so sentenced was low. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder stated as an aside in his Natural History's discussion of sea water, that "[I]n Rome. . .the soldier's pay was originally salt and the word salary derives from it. . ." Plinius Naturalis Historia XXXI.

Modern rock salt mine near Mount Morris, New York

Even as recently as the 20th century, salt mining in the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany was performed by persons being punished.

Today most salt mines are operated by large multi-national companies like Cargill and Compass Minerals.

See also


  1. ^ Oilfield Glossary: Term 'evaporite'
  2. ^ "The Detroit Salt Company --Explore the City under the City." (online). Retrieved 2008-02-08. 
  3. ^ "Industries in Godrich". Retrieved 2008-02-08. "At a depth of 1,750 feet (530 m), the Sifto Salt Mine underworld, about one and one half miles wide, extends 2 miles (3.2 km) into Lake Huron. The ceilings average 45 feet (14 m) in height. Thick pillars give the appearance of rooms that trucks travel through to carry rock salt to crushing and screening operations before it is hoisted to the surface." 

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