It may be called salt, but that is where the similarities to the table variety that we use to season food end. Produced far away from the sea, rock salt is carved from underground mines.
How is Rock Salt formed?
The deposits of rock salt in the UK were formed millions of years ago, when the UK and Ireland were covered by inland seas. As this water gradually evaporated away over time, leaving the country we now know, vast salty deposits were left behind, some buried up to a mile deep, others lying just 100m under the surface.
The majority of the rock salt in this country can be found at the three main salt mines in the UK, which are the Salt Union’s Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire, Cleveland Potash in Teesside and the Irish Salt Mining and Exploration Company in County Antrim.
How is Rock Salt excavated?
In days gone by, miners would use pickaxes and buckets to extract the rock, but times have moved on. Engineers run machines known as continuous miners to extract the rock salt from these mines. They are fitted with rotating steel cutting picks which grind the salt away from the walls.
The salt is then placed on huge conveyor belts which carry the salt to the surface, where it is treated and ground further in preparation for use on Britain’s roads.
Why is Rock Salt so useful for Roads?
Salt lowers the melting point of water to below zero degrees Celsius. Therefore when rock salt is placed on a frozen road, it either stops ice from forming in the first place, or melts and dissolves the ice and snow that has already gathered.
This makes the roads considerable safer for traffic by lowering the risk of sliding or skidding and causing a possibly serious accident.
Can I use rock salt myself?
The useful thing about rock salt being treated and prepared when it leaves the cave that it has been in for millions of years, is that it is ready for use as soon as it is delivered, which means you do not have to rely on heavy gritters to take care of your roads and pathways.
If your driveway has been affected by snow, then you can purchase rock salt yourself in various forms, either bagged or loose.
This is also very useful on construction sites during the winter months, as frozen ground can put a job back a considerable amount.
Some of the best solutions to problems occur naturally, and in the case of rock salt this is certainly true. Millions of years ago, a store of rock salt was built up naturally, and in the present day, this resource is invaluable in keeping the roads of Britain clear of snow and ice and keeping traffic moving slowly.
You may not give rock salt a lot of thought on a regular basis, but it has got you home safe many a time, and will continue to do so for many more years.
Matt Coussens is the director of Milestone Supplies, which provide Roofing, Natural Stone and Reclaimed products.