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.
Previous
Next

History

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 indus- try due to their special chemical and physical proper- ties, i. e. without any substance conversion. A distinc- tion 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 2018, the amount produced in Germany was ap- prox. 15.3 million tonnes of rock salt (including indus- trial brine) and some 6.2 million tonnes of potash and potash salt products. With a total production of ap- prox. 5%, Germany was the fourth largest producer of salt in the world in 2018, after China, the USA and India, and also the fifth largest potash producer with around 7% of the world’s total production. In 2018, a total of 8,275 persons were directly employed in potash mining in Germany and a further 2,544 in salt mining.1

Extraction

Extraction takes place in Germany in six potash mines (in Hesse, Lower Saxony, 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-West- phalia) and ten solubilisation 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 cut- ting techniques or by brining out underground depos- its. 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).

Uses

Rock salt and evaporated salt is used as commercial and industrial salt – we also use it on our food and for de-icing purposes. Salt is an indispensable natural resource for the chemical industry, e.g. in the produc- tion of soda, chlorine and caustic soda. Glass, plastic and aluminium 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 par- ticularly high purity requirements as an active phar- maceutical ingredient
Potash crude salts are mostly extracted by under- ground mining and to a lesser extent produced from brine. They 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. https://www.salzwerke.de/fileadmin/user_upload/salzwerke/dokumente/downloads/Investor_Relati-ons/Geschaeftsberichte/Geschaeftsbericht_2018.pdf