A salt mine is a geological area that contains rock salt and/or halite. The mines are worked for salt extraction, which has a variety of uses today, but was originally used as a cooking ingredient due to its scarcity and difficulty of extraction. Salt Mining was very dangerous and difficult up until the industrial revolution, which occurred between 1760 and 1840. This comes at the tail end of the Georgian Era, meaning that up until machine based extraction became possible, salt was a highly desired product and a powerful economic driver. Human extraction of salt, or dry salt mining, had a number of dangers. Salt would be mined from caverns similar to the practice of coal mining. Salt beds are left from seabeds that have since dried up and been buried over tens of thousands of years. Shafts were lowered into the mine, and extraction would happen in a carefully managed process to maintain the structural integrity of the deposit. In removing the deposits, salt micro particles would fill the air and ultimately the lungs of the miners, who were all men at that time. This lead to quick dehydration and sodium overdoses. Later, practices were developed to inject steam or hot water into salt beds, and extract the brine of water and salt that was formed. This brine would either be air dried, or lumber would be used to absorb the water, expediting the process of removing water, in a process known as solution mining. Today, solution mining is used mostly to develop table salt. The product is boiled, dried, and purified, leaving a near 100% pure chemical compound of sodium chloride. Today, iodine and anti-clumping agents are added to to table salt for ease of use.
Historical records indicate the first widespread use of salt in Britain was during the Iron Age. Seawater was the primary source of salt, which was boiled for sanitation purposes. During the colonization of India, British law declared that only they were allowed to profit from salt production on the coast of India.
Today, the majority of the world’s salt production comes from China and the United States. In the Georgian Period however, salt was used widely enough to become incorporated in many recipes, of which there are still record today. Oysters for example were enjoyed by all classes of society, and one recipe calls for salt as a seasoning. This also demonstrates how food prices have changed since the Georgian period, as today shellfish in many areas is considered a luxury item, while salt is ubiquitous. Salt also had important uses for food preservation leading to advancements in the health and welfare of populations. The prevalence of salt, and its wide variety of uses, can be seen throughout history, much as it is used today.
Freeman, Shanna. “How Salt Works.” HowStuffWorks. HowStuffWorks.com, 27 Nov. 2007. Web. 18 July 2014. .
Guttman, Amy. “Three Ways Cooking Has Changed Over The Last 300 Years.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 18 July 2014. .
“Industrial Revolution.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 July 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. .
“Salt mining.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 16 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014. .
“Salt mining: mining part.” Salt mining: mining part. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2014. .