In 2021, the amount produced in Germany was approximately 16.7 million tonnes of rock salt (including industrial brine) and some 6.4 million tonnes of potash and potash salt products. This is roughly equivalent to a value of €2.5 billion and it accounts for a 0.6% share of GDP. Salts accounted for around 19% of the total value of natural resources mined in Germany in 2021. This means that salts ranked 2nd among all natural resources mined in Germany in terms of economic importance. Domestic production covered 100% of German requirements for salts (2021). With a total production of approx. 5%, Germany was the fourth largest producer of salt in the world in 2021, after China, the USA and India, and also the fifth largest potash producer with around 5% of the world’s total production. In 2021 (2022), a total of 7,825 (8,198) persons were directly employed in potash mining in Germany and a further 2,366 (2,386) in salt mining 7.
Extraction takes place in Germany in five potash mines (in Hesse, and Thuringia), seven salt mines (e.g. in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia), six salt works ( e.g. in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia) and ten solubilisation facilities (amongst others those in North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Thuringia)8. Salt mining is carried out in the mines by means of drilling, blasting or cutting techniques or by brining out underground deposits (solubilisation). 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 or specialized facilities, where it eventually becomes salt, potash salt and other 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 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 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 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.
7 Südwestdeutsche Salzwerke AG (2021): Annual Report 2020. URL: https://www.salzwerke.de/de/investor-relations/finanzberichte/geschaeftsbe- richte.html [Accessed on 14 November 2022], for a detailed source reference see endnote i.