Interesting facts about salts

Interesting facts about salts
Salt has been actively extracted by humans for over 5000 years.
Interesting facts about salts
The importance of salt for many cities is often reflected in their names.
Interesting facts about salts
If saline sources were discovered in a town, the syllable “Bad” (spa) was added to the town’s name. This ushered in the birth of today’s spas.
Interesting facts about salts
In the mid-19th century, Justus von Liebig discovered the importance of potassium as an essential plant nutrient.
Interesting facts about salts
When miners coincidentally discovered the world’s first known potash deposit while searching for rock salt near Staßfurt in 1856, the first potash mines and works were subsequently established in Germany around 1860.
Interesting facts about salts
In the high-medieval period, the brine pipeline relocated from the Reichenhall mine to Traunstein was one of the first pipelines for natural resources in the world.
Interesting facts about salts
The Werra potash mine is the largest underground mining site in Germany.


In addition to the mineral natural resources described in the following section (vii Other natural resources), salts are industrial minerals. Industrial minerals are mineral rocks that can be immediately used in industry due to their special chemical and physical properties, i.e. without any substance conversion. A distinction is made between rock salt, potash salts and magnesium salts.
Germany has large salt deposits, which are mainly concentrated in northern Germany. Over millions of years, deposits of salts resulted in several 100 m-thick layers. Bavarian and Austrian Alps salt is of a similar age and has been extracted for thousands of years.
The commissioning of the first potash plant in the world in Staßfurt in 1861 founded the almost 150-year tradition of German potash mining. The extraction of salt by solubilisation, i.e. by making it soluble using water injected via boreholes, or by mining in salt mines, has a long history. People were digging for salt in the Berchtesgaden area as early as the 12th century. In the 16th century a salt mine was built there which is still in operation today.

Economic importance

In 2019, the amount produced in Germany was approximately 15.6 million tonnes of rock salt (including industrial brine) and some 5.7 million tonnes of potash and potash salt products. This is roughly equivalent to a value of EUR2.0 billion and it accounts for a 0.5% share of GDP. Salts accounted for around 19% of the total value of natural resources mined in Germany in 2019. This puts salts in top position of all natural resources mined in Germany in terms of its economic importance. Domestic production covered 100% of German requirements for salts (2019). With a total production of approx. 5%, Germany was the fourth largest producer of salt in the world in 2019, after China, the USA and India, and also the fifth largest potash producer with around 7% of the world’s total production. In 2019, a total of 7,876 persons were directly employed in potash mining in Germany and a further 2,402 in salt mining.4


Extraction takes place in Germany in five potash mines (in Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia), seven salt mines (in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia), seven salt works (in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western-Pomerania, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia) and ten solubili- sation facilities (in North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig- Holstein, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia). Salt mining is carried out in the mines by means of drilling, blasting or cutting techniques or by brining out underground deposits. Brining out is done by introducing freshwater or half-brine into the salt deposits through borehole probes, after which the salts dissolve. The brine is then pumped through a probe and processed above ground in salt works, where it eventually becomes salt (and other by-products).


Rock salt and evaporated salt is used for commercial and industrial purposes as well as for food and de-icing. Salt is an indispensable natural resource for the chemical industry, e.g. in the production of soda, chlorine and caustic soda. Glass, plastic and alumini- um could not be produced without salt. It is used as regenerating salt in water softening plants, in the feed industry, in road services, for snow clearing and in the food industry. Sodium chloride meets particularly high purity requirements as an active pharmaceutical ingredient.
Potash crude salts are largely mined but, to a lesser extent, they are also extracted using other methods. The salts are mainly used in agriculture as fertilisers. However, they are also used as industrial salts in elec- trolysis and other industrial processes – and there is a demand for these salts in highly-purified form for the food and feed industries and for pharmaceutical purposes.

1According to the Association of the Potash and Salt Industry (Verband der Kali- und Salzindustrie e. V.) and the Annual Report of Südwestdeutsche Salzwerke A.G.