Himalayan salt or rock salt (halite) is known for several benefits over regular table salt and has become very popular in the whole world in recent past years. It is not just famous for dietary uses but also for numerous non-dietary uses. Himalayan rock salt crystal structure and pinkish tint make it different from other salts.
It contains up to 98% sodium chloride and 2% trace minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium. In addition to being a food additive and finishing salt for presenting meals, it is also used in spas and wellness treatments. Let’s find out the Himalayan salt origin and from where and how it is mined.
Origin Of Himalayan Pink Salt From Pakistan
Himalayan pink salt is a mineral-rich compound whose origin can be traced from ancient sea salt deposits located deep in the Himalayas in the Punjab region of Pakistan – protected for ages beneath the craggy mountain peaks. It has remained covered by the lava under great pressure. Due to this, it is pollutant-free and does not contain any impurities.
Even though its name gives the thought that it comes from the pure environment of the Himalayas, but the reality is that the Himalayan pink salt is sourced hundreds of kilometers away from this mountain range, to be accurate, from salt mines in the salt range which is located in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in Pakistan. These salt mines in Pakistan are the only source of Himalayan rock salt in the world which is why it is also known as Pakistan salt.
Mining Of Himalayan Pink Salt
Mining of pink salt is done at Khewra salt mines in Punjab, Pakistan. The Himalayan salt from Pakistan is extracted in the form of orange pink-colored rock crystals (can be off-white or transparent crystals) from age-old salt deposits, estimated to be nearly 250 million years old.
Himalayan salt history dates back to its discovery by Alexander’s troops in 320 BC, but it became famous in the Mughal era. The main tunnel at ground level was created by Dr. H. Warth, who was a mining engineer, in 1872 during British rule. After independence, the Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation took over the charge of the mine.
The mine is well-known for the production of pink Khewra salt, often traded as Himalayan pink salt, and is also a major tourist spot, attracting up to 250,000 visitors per annum.
The Himalayan pink salt khewra mine is the largest and only source of pink salt in the world, yielding more than 350,000 tons per annum. The reserves of salt in the mine are estimated to be from 82 million tons to 600 million tons.
The mine consists of nineteen stories, of which eleven are below ground. From the entrance, the mine extends about 730 meters (2440 ft.) into the mountains and the total extent of the tunnels is about 40 km (25 miles). The temperature inside the mine stays about 18–20 °C (64–68 °F) throughout the year. The total salt reserves are estimated to provide salt for the next hundreds of years.
Extraction Of Himalayan Salt
Himalayan salt mining is done using the “Room and Pillar Method” (also called “Dome and Pillar”) – an architectural system established by the British in the early 1800s. This method ensures the safety of the mines. Only 50 percent of the salt in each “room” within the mine is harvested and withdrawn. The remaining 50 percent is left as pillars to preserve the structure of the rooms and the mountain.
Usage Of Explosives In The Mining Of Himalayan Pink Salt
Dynamite or explosives are only used for the early opening of the entrance to the mine. This process existed more than a hundred years ago for all the mines in the salt range.
All mining of Himalayan salt is done by hand using conventional, established methods. Though this is a slow process, the use of explosives within the mine is discouraged to protect the crystalline structure of the salt and to preserve the environment which shows how sustainable Himalayan salt is.
Variants Of Himalayan Pink Salt
During mining, large blocks of salt are collected which are then converted into different grain sizes and shapes at the manufacturing facilities.
- Fine Himalayan pink salt has powder-like evenly-shaped grains that are densely packed and can be precisely measured, so it is mostly used at times when an accurate quantity of salt is needed.
- Coarse Himalayan pink salt has large salt crystals. This crystalline salt is mostly used in grinders as a convenient way of grounding Himalayan pink salt directly on different foods.
- Himalayan salt cooking blocks: Large slabs of salt carved into small blocks that are used for cooking and grilling a variety of foods.
Himalayan Salt Mining Environmental Impact
It is a valuable trade commodity and contributes to the economy of the country. That is why proper standards are followed to avoid any mishap. The authorities make sure that mining is done by following all the approved standards and procedures for maintaining the environment.
For preserving the environment, eco-friendly mining practices are being followed at the mining facilities. To avoid the dangerous effects of explosives, mining is all done through hands.
Any remarkable negative impact of pink salt mining on wild and plant life has not been known yet. To protect the surface and ground waters from getting affected by the release of contaminated water, proper drainage methods are used.