[PHOTOS] Majestic Images of Salt Mines Around the World
Salt is vastly underrated. Along with being a key element in the diet of humans, animals, and even plants, salt is one of the most effective and widely used food preservatives. Although the Earth produces salt in abundance, it still requires extraction. That’s the beauty of it.
The process of mining salt can produce some of the most majestic and tranquilizing images ever seen. These landscapes include multicolored pools of water, deep caverns, and geometric carvings. The sites are so mesmerizing, many of them have become home to museums and tour destinations.
One of the brine pools that are part of a lithium salt pilot plant on the Uyuni salt lake, which holds the world's largest reserve of lithium, located in southwestern Bolivia. (Source: The Atlantic)
Pools of mineral-colored water gathered on salt flats in holes dug by salt collectors on the Senegalese coastline near the border with Gambia. (Source: The Atlantic)
Former salt mine Asse in Remlingen, Germany.
The Saint Kinga's Chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow, Poland.
Abandoned salt mine in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Turda salt mine in Turda city, Romania.
The Khewra Salt Mine is located in Khewra, north of Pind Dadan Khan.
Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland.
A halite salt crystal in the shape of a heart, illuminated from within, in the Nemocon salt mine in Colombia. (Source: The Atlantic)
A woman walks across salt flats being cultivated for the white crystals near the village of Ngaye-Ngaye, 10 km (6 mi) south of Senegal's northern town of Saint Louis, on April 9, 2007. Some 3,000 people, mostly women, spend long hours under the blinding sun scraping up salt with sticks and their hands, earning the equivalent of a dollar or two per day. (Source: The Atlantic)
An aerial view of the salt fields of Palibelo village, on the outskirts of Bima, on Indonesia's Sumbawa island. (Source: The Atlantic)
A laborer poses for a photograph while cutting rock salt for decoration pieces in Khewra, Pakistan. The Khewra Salt Mines are said to be the second largest salt mine in the world. (Source: The Atlantic)
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.