C Cleveland

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Since many of us in are in the midst of a cold winter blast, have you ever wondered where the salt comes from that's used to clear your roads? One source is the Cargill Salt Mine in Cleveland.

Millions of years ago, ancient seas dried up, leaving behind a bed of salt over 50-feet thick. Limestone and shale deposits buried the bed and retreating glaciers left the Great Lakes on top. This salt was accidentally discovered when drillers searching for oil found salt instead.

In the early 1800's, most of the salt used in Cleveland was brought in from Pennsylvania and New York. It proved to be a costly commodity given the demand but by 1863, thanks to chance discoveries, Ohio was the third largest salt producing state.

Fast forward to 1957, when International Salt Company (now owned by Cargill) acquires Whiskey Island, the peninsula in the Cuyahoga River 1.5 miles from downtown Cleveland. Whiskey Island is the surface entrance to a vast rock mining city under the city.

Salt mine seen above the bridge

From the highway that runs alongside it, the mine looks like any other industrial site in a busy, Great Lakes port. But working here is not at all like working in any other industrial job. To start their day, workers make a daily descent in an elevator cage that takes four minutes to carry them down 1793 feet to the the 9000 acre reserve.

There, the 400 miles of underground roads link the rooms of salt. Each room is 45 feet wide and 18-20 feet tall, separated by large safety pillars of salt. These pillars support more than 350 vertical feet of deposits above the galleries currently excavating the bed called F2-B. The rock salt removed after blasting one room can be up to 650 tons in weight. This room and pillar system has been used for centuries.

The salt mine produces almost 2 1/2 million tons of salt a year. Nightly, miners bore holes for explosives in the rock face and in the morning, the loose salt is dumped into machines that break it into smaller pieces. It's processed in an underground mill before it's taken to the surface, 20 tons at a time.

Salt isn't a rigid, break away type of rock and because of this, it has movement to it. Workers leave about half the salt behind in a room and close it off to increase ventilation.

You would think that cutting away large quantities of rock would cause some structural changes and you would be right. However, it's difficult to distinguish if the deformities in the area under Whiskey Island are from the loss of weight of salt being removed rather than merely representing natural variations in the rock unit's composition so I think we're safe for now.

No, sadly, they don't offer tours.


  1. where do you come up with this stuff? pretty cool

  2. Yeah, this is good stuff Chrisie

  3. You don't learn this stuff swingin on a pole!!!!

  4. So that's where Lot's wife ended up.

  5. Chrissy
    you must do this for a living, and you do it well.

  6. Hey Chrissy!

    That's really interesting! Now, I can relate.. since I live in a winter country now-- cold climate and no longer in sunny So. Cal! I love when people salt or sand their sidewalks because then, I don't slip!!
    Cheers to you!

  7. Please fill out my form for the 3 units of continuing education! I learned a whole lot! Thanks-- we use so much of it here, and I never knew!

  8. Apparently, the UK ran out of salt.... There was about half an inch of snow and ice here last week and Monkey's school was closed down for two days......... Hmm - winter and snow. Whatever!


  9. Hey Chrissy! I knew nothing about any of this. 400 miles of roads?! Good grief, this is just mind boggling. I wonder when they'll start marketing underground real estate? Thanks for sharing, Indigo

  10. I would have been an A student if my teachers would have been as good as you!

  11. Wow! Interesting. This is some good information. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Honestly, I've gotta tell ya...I'm loving these Cleveland posts, Chrissy!

    They're so interesting and educational.

    I know it must take a great deal of time putting these things together, so THANK YOU.

    Hey, I thought of you today because I met a really nice guy who stopped in my store to purchase something and discovered he was from CLEVELAND. I told him all about your photo posts of the city and how beautiful I thought it looked and he agreed. I was almost tempted to try and "set him up" with you because he was soooo nice and VERY cute. I think you would have liked him - woo! woo!


  13. You know, I've made a career of working in these. I never knew what they looked like in the daylight.

  14. @R. Jacob,
    What can I say? I'm a genius. :-)
    And I would love to do this full time instead of managing people.


    Thank you!

    Hey, I just did that to put myself through school so I could learn this stuff.


    Dealing with snow gives you a whole different perspective, doesn't it?

    @Leah Rubin,
    Okay, stay after class and I'll fill it out. :-)

    Ran OUT of salt? Well, I'm sure Monkey was happy but I bet his girlfriend missed him.

    Cool, isn't it? I would love to go on a tour. I saw this salt mine in Austria that gives tours like an amusement park. Maybe we could go there?

    Aw, you're sweet.

    Thanks, Lily!

    I'm glad you like them! Hey, thanks for thinking of me with that guy! He was probably someone I've already dated. I think I've exhausted all the men in C-town.

    Seriously? Okay, your turn to fill in the blanks of what I missed!

  15. R. Jacob,
    I'm workin' on it! :-)

  16. Damn! That's the most information I've gotten in ages! Thanks! I never have really considered salt mines one way or the other, but from now on, I will!


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