The state of Ohio mines nearly 4,000,000 tons of salt a year! That’s incredible. As a matter of fact, salt was the first mineral to be mined in the state. Data shows that back in the 1700’s, early frontiersman made salt at natural springs in the Southern Ohio area, and to catch you up1 to speed with the importance of salt…it was used by ancient societies as a form of money! Actually the word salary is derived from the Latin word salarium, which is defined as “salt allowance.”
How about the fact that the two active salt rock operations in Ohio are both located in North East Ohio? Yup, Fairport Harbor and Cleveland. Ohio Salt Mines are the third largest producer of the precious mineral in the entire country, yet this underground world deep under Lake Erie’s lake-floor is a universe where a galaxy of miners are unknown to so many of us above ground terrestrials. The reality is that most of us are clueless to the miners that get down to their jobs everyday, via a 2,000 foot straight down descent below the surface of Lake Erie. These underground salt caverns provide salt that is used primarily for ice traction throughout the state on our roadways.
In an attempt to fully understand how we have been blessed with one of the Earths most valuable minerals, let’s rewind a few million years back…
It was once upon a long time ago, when Ohio was dry at the start of the Paleozoic Era, a.k.a. the Silurian Period. This dry area would soon become a shallow, warm, saline sea, filled with lots of sea creatures–crustaceans, algae, reefs, fish, etc. Around the finale of this period, some 410 million years ago or more, the temperature became hot and dry leaving salt deposits behind in the Northeastern zone of Ohio. As history continued to evolve, Lake Erie went through a series of changes and transformations; a saltwater ocean, rises and falls of the sea, climate changes, etc…ultimately leaving us today with ancient salt beds below the North Coast that have formed layers of up to two-hundred feet thick and extend 2-3 miles out into Lake Erie.
Fast-forward millions of years:
It is the latter part of the 1800’s, and drillers for natural gas near the Cleveland area dig into the surface to explore massive salt rock deposits that lengthen out beneath the central basin of Lake Erie and most of Northeastern Ohio. Jump forward to the late 1950’s…the salt mines were developed and blasting through the salt walls began when miners excavated down into the salt blocks. This created interconnected subterranean spaces and channels from salt cave to salt cave that still exist today.
Adding to the productivity of our saltiness, there are also three other salt-production operations in Ohio that go through a special “extraction and evaporation” procedure; these sites provide salt for food processing, agricultural purposes, industrial uses, and those heavy bags of water-softener salt for our homes.
It turns out that being salty directly employs about 600 Ohioans and presents another 3,000 additional job positions that are associated to the industry. Also good for our local economy, the salt mines are a hotspot for students of all ages, making for a fantastic field trip destination for schools from around and within the region.
Guesstimates by geologists forecast that there’s a very generous amount of salt beneath our landscape, in fact enough to last through thousands more of Ohio’s snowy winters… thank goodness for that cause we know we’ll need that traction.
For more information on Cargill Cleveland Salt Mine, check out the website at: www.cargill.com