Did you know that there used to be a thriving salt mine right underneath Detroit? It was over 1,500 acres and comprised of over 100 miles of road. So what's the story behind this mine? How did it get there and why is it no longer operating?
The salt mines were a booming business from the 1920s to 1983. It was forced to close due to falling salt prices.
About 400 million years ago, an area of land, the Michigan Basin, was separated from the ocean and sank lower and lower into the Earth. As a result, ocean water poured into it. When it evaporated, the massive salt deposits remained.
It stretched from Dearborn to Allen Park, and you can still see the entrance today at 12841 Sanders Street.
The salt mine was buried over the years, preserved 1,200 feet below the Earth. Some people have even estimated that there are 71 trillion tons of salt in the mines. Even though salt is cheap today, it was once a valuable commodity.
The salt was discovered in Detroit in 1895. But it took approximate 20 years before they were able to finally build the shafts and start mining.
The mine was owned by The International Salt Company, who purchased it from Watkins Salt Company.
Due to the great mining potential, they decided to upgrade their project with more men, better equipment, and a second shaft.
Mining underground was the most difficult challenge. Due to poor working conditions, there were a lot of accidents.
One thing to note about the mine, though, is that it was clean and rodent-free. Because it was a salt mine, there was nothing for any rats or cockroaches to eat.
The mine was shut down in 1983 when it became unprofitable. It remained closed until 1997, when The Detroit Salt Company LLC decided to purchase it and produce salt again.
Today, the mine is still active and the salt mined is used as road salt.