In addition to the mineral natural resources described in the following section, 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.
In 2018, the amount produced in Germany was approx. 15.3 million tonnes of rock salt (including industrial brine) and some 6.2 million tonnes of potash and potash salt products. With a total production of approx. 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 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 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 as commercial and industrial salt – we also use it on our food and for deicing purposes. Salt is an indispensable natural resource for the chemical industry, e.g. in the production 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 particularly high purity requirements as an active pharmaceutical ingredient
Potash crude salts are mostly extracted by underground 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 electrolysis 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_Relat-ions/Geschaeftsberichte/Geschaeftsbericht_2018.pdf