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Published: February 17th 2004
Salt Mining EquipmentSalt
Old style, no dynamite here.
in small amounts is needed to maintain the body's health, about 2.5 g a day. The salt mine in Parajd
produces around 600 tonnes of salt per day, enough to provide 240 million people with their dietary requirements.
Parajd is a small industrial town about a one hour bus journey from Hargitafurdo; after 3 days skiing and a lot of falling a rest day sounded really appealing. The bus arrived and was filled by everyone who wanted a rest - not a seat spare. The heating on the coach was turned off after discovering that it pumped in exhaust fumes. Everyone sat with coats, hoping that the driver would refrain from using the air-horn (how useful can a horn on the inside of the coach be?) every time another vehicle appeared.
Parajd was not a beautiful town on this cold, February morning, large trucks laden with salt sprayed muddy, salty slush onto the pavements, but we hadn’t journeyed to see the surface of the town, but to discover what lay beneath.
After some confusion a small bus that takes both tourists and workers down to the mine arrived. A descent though a steep very dark tunnel followed, most of
us hanging from the handles as to maximise the number of passengers the seats were few. Arriving at the entrance to the mine proper the first thing that I noticed was the taste of the air. Salty, very salty, the air was literally saturated with salt dust. I think just spending an hour here would have led to my 2.5g of daily salt consumption - I knew that statistic could get used. Fortunately a small door opened in the rock face, and a much clearer cleaner aired area was behind.
For tourists access is not given to the working sections of the mine, instead areas have been left so that people can see what much of the mine is like. The first chamber that we were shown into was filled with carvings and paintings on the rock face, made by the miners. The light eerie and low, we followed the passage on to the main chamber.
Rock salt has interesting properties when it comes to mining. The adhesive strength of the salt means that instead of the narrow network of tunnels of many mines, such as coal, vast self supporting chambers can be excavated. The main chamber of the salt
mine was truly vast, Boeing 747’s could have been comfortably stacked in the rooms. The salt could support it’s own structure up to 30m wide, to increase the size of the chamber, pillars were left, these at 14m square were again huge.
Down in the main chamber some 200m below Parajd, we found a chapel, a childrens’ playground and a museum. Occasionally the crack of dynamite, shattering rock salt elsewhere in the mine reverberated through the chamber, the sound very much like the crackle of lightning. Some of the rock salt in its natural unprocessed form was left in shallow pits, some of the pieces were really beautiful, purples and golds staining the crystals.
On the way back to the surface and a promised nice restaurant, we shared the bus with the salt miners. They chatted amongst themselves, the end of another shift. Our group of resting skiers went to a restaurant, seeing one of it’s busiest winter days, and ate. I wondered if the table salt was local, but never found out.
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