The cost of salt – by Sam Blakely (Canadian Mining Journal – April 18, 2023)

Salt (NaCl), a nutrient vital to all animal life, is an important natural resource especially in southwestern Ontario. Canada is one of the world’s largest salt consumers thanks to its harsh winters, and Ontario provides substantially more of this salt than all other provinces combined. Most Canadian salt is commonly mined via underground room-and-pillar methods and is used to de-ice roadways.

Table salt, chemical raw materials, and other end uses also represent major portions of overall consumption. The later products are most often produced via solution mining, where fresh water is injected via wells into buried salt deposits to recover a salt-saturated brine. Solution mining also yields valuable underground caverns, often used to store hydrocarbons after salt production ends.

As mineral resources, the development of salt deposits into new mines generally entails an iterative evaluation process like that of any other mineral deposit, beginning with discovery and scoping-level economic analysis. However, salt deposits are more widespread than most and relatively cheap to extract, a defining characteristic that salt shares with other ubiquitous minerals of economic interest.

As with mining other common minerals, transportation costs often form a substantially larger portion of overall operating costs when compared to mineral commodities of higher value. But the mining costs associated with producing salt via room-and-pillar methods can often form a major portion of the overall operating cost, too.

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