CLEVELAND — Have you ever wondered where all the rock salt that melts all the ice and snow on our highways and roads comes from?
Most of the salt is from a mine under Lake Erie just off of downtown Cleveland.
For half a century, Cargill Deicing Technology has been mining salt from underneath Lake Erie. The mine is part of the Great Eastern Salt Basin, one of the world’s largest salt beds, with tunnels that are 20 feet high and 45 feet wide.
The salt mine is different than most salt mines because it’s located right in downtown Cleveland.
“Most of your mines are located out in the country away from the city. This makes it very unique, puts us right smack dab where our business is,” said Bob Supko, the Cargill mine manager.
The salt mine is four miles into Lake Erie and more than 1,800 feet deep, plus the temperature inside the mine ranges above 70 degrees.
“Pretty warm to me but it’s constant. Wintertime, summertime you just change. Whether you wear a coat or how heavy a coat that’s it, you are a couple miles back in here, it’s the same round,” said Keith Dickey, a driller at the mine.
The salt is produced first by drilling into the formation, then collected onto miles and miles of conveyor belts, then chopped up and hauled up to the surface where it eventually gets spread across our roads to melt the snow and ice.
“About 80 percent of our production goes to de-icing control, we would say we are probably the majority supplier for the state of Ohio. We are producing a product for the people in the state of Ohio and surrounding states and make the roads safer. That’s the goal,” said Nick Newsome, a superintendent at the mine.
All of the huge, heavy equipment that is used in producing salt is lowered down into the mine in pieces then assembled together.
“It will not fit down a shaft in one piece. We take and make it as many pieces as possible to lighten the load as well,” said Don Vath, a mechanic at the Cleveland mine.
Once they are done with the heavy equipment, it never returns to the surface.
They place it in what they call their equipment graveyard.
The Cleveland mine has been producing salt since 1963 and has 100 years of salt reserves left under Lake Erie.