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SALT

  • Salt
  • Mines Producing Salt

Also Known As : Sodium Chloride - Iodised Salt

It is an important ingredient for life as well as for industry and although salt's not mined in Australia at the present time, as all salt currently produced in the country is 'farmed,' we are still the world's biggest exporter of the product.

Australia produces between 10 and 12 million tonnes of salt annually with most of it exported to Asia and despite world production being around 250 million tonnes a year, Australia remains the world's largest exporter.

Harvesting of Salt

Salt is not mined in Australia although there are plans to open an underground salt mine in Central Australia in the near future. This proposal is claimed to have discovered a vast underground deposit of salt near Alice Springs containing salt domes and thick salt beds. All salt currently produced in Australia is harvested through evaporation in natural salt lakes or man made salt pans. In both instances the hot sun and the wind combine to evaporate the water in shallow pools leaving behind the salt crystals. After scraping off the salt deposits the salt is washed, cleaned, drained and refined. By producing salt in this way 100 percent sodium chloride is recovered.

Salt has up to 14,000 Different Uses

About 40 percent of salt produced in the world is separated into soda ash and chlorine. The foundation chemicals of many everyday products. Salt is as important to the chemical industry as is oil to the petrochemical industry. The main difference between the two is that there is no fear of the world ever running out of salt supplies. Everybody is familiar with salt in the salt shaker on the dinner table, how it softens 'hard' water, salt blocks for animal feed-lots, the spreading of salt on roadways to stop ice and snow building up etc. But how many of us realise the following uses salt has in the chemical industry where it helps give us the following products:

The means to purify water with chlorine
Soaps, detergents and bleaches
Countless medications
PVC pipes
Mobile phones
Cosmetics
Scuba diving suits (and astronaut space suits)
Digital cameras
Flat panel TV sets
Electron microscopes
Solar panels

A by-product of salt in an evaporation pond is a secondary product known as magnesium chloride. This is used to make cosmetics and to thicken as well as set tofu. Magnesium chloride is a colourless spirit with an extremely bitter taste, it is often found in face creams where it absorbs moisture from your skin while at the same time gives your skin a dewy like feel.

Pink salt is common in many parts of Australia. It gives natural salt lakes a beautiful pinkish hue but is often thought of as being 'dirty' salt contaminated by dust storms in the outback. It is in fact the result of iron ore contamination from the soil. It can't be removed and is marketed as a mineral rich salt.

Salt is used in the textile industry to fix the different dyes, in metal processing to remove impurities, the rubber industry uses salt to separate rubber from latex. Oil and gas drillers use salt to increase mud density and to inhibit fermentation, pharmacists use salt in many ways, some in the polishing of tablets, the making of saline solutions and for use in dialysis machines. It is also widely used in curing and preserving animal hides in leather production. It is a grinding agent in the manufacturing of pigments. It vitrifies clays in the making of ceramics. Salt separates glycerol from water in making soap. There are thousands of other uses for salt and it is one truly sustainable product that's a natural part of the environment.

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