10,000 square miles of salt

salt caked street closeupGeological/road deicing facts of the day: New York State, the nation's third-leading producer of salt, has the deepest salt mine in the Western Hemisphere. From a 2009 article in the DEC's Conservationist:

In New York, salt (a.k.a. the mineral halite) occurs in formations deep underground. These formations are remnants of a vast sea that covered what is today's western and central New York during the Silurian period, some 400 million years ago. Over time, the water dried, leaving behind thick salt deposits. Today, more than 10,000 square miles (about 3.9 trillion metric tons) of salt lie under New York at depths ranging from 500 feet near Syracuse to 4,000 feet near the Pennsylvania/New York border. With salt deposits so deep and expansive, collecting it can be a challenge. ...
Since the early 1900s, conventional hard rock salt mining is the primary process used for mining salt for deicing and snow removal. Employing the "room-and-pillar" method during mining, solid salt pillars are carved in the underground cavern to provide roof support and the walls of salt are excavated through the use of small, controlled blasts. Front-end loaders scoop the pile of fallen salt, which is then processed in a crusher to make the salt uniform. Next, the salt is hoisted to the surface and taken away by trucks and trains.
In New York there are two active conventional salt mines-Cargill's Cayuga Mine in Tompkins County, and American Rock Salt's Hampton Corners Mine in Livingston County. The Cayuga mine is a large operation that encompasses approximately 18,000 acres under portions of Cayuga Lake and adjacent lands. In addition, the mine is 2,300 feet deep, making it the deepest salt mine in the western hemisphere.

That American Rock Salt mine, near Rochester, is said to be the largest salt mine in the United States. As you might imagine, they've been rather busy this winter. [AP/Syracuse.com]

Also: We're not sure this quite lives up to its billing as "The Surprising History of Road Salt," but this recent NatGeo article does include some interesting bits.

Earlier on AOA: And the roads will run with beet juice

Comments

If you think that's interesting, you should read "Salt", by Mark Kurlansky. Among the interesting things I found out from the book is that the Erie Canal route was chosen in part to go near salt marshes south of Syracuse because that was such an important trade product at the time. He's also written another book with New York (though not upstate) connections called "The Big Oyster", about the history of oystering around New York City.

Mike Jones is right -- Kurlansky's "Salt: A World History" is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read. It made me appreciate this common but vital substance in a way I never imagined, whether it's harvested from the sea or brine marshes, or mined from deep within the earth. (Kurlansky's book on the history and natural history of cod and cod fishing is also remarkable.)

In Syracuse, Salina Street (as well as the name of the town of Salina) is derived from the word saline.

Finally! Other people who have read that great book.

Whenever I tell anyone about it, they're like, "Salt? You read a book about salt?"

And, Rob, the book kind of got me over the anti-sodium thinking in a lot of health advice. Sure, people consume too much sodium from prepared foods, but some salt is necessary to health and it's also necessary to flavor food. So it made me rethink my automatic elimination or reduction of salt in cooking (and I don't even have high blood pressure) and think about using some gourmet salts for finishing a dish.

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