Pakistan's Pink Rock Salt Mines
Very few places in the world have pink rock salt but a remote corner of northern Pakistan holds by far the most. In fact, since mining began here by the local people many hundreds of years ago, only 5% of the total amount existing has been removed. Production increased in the 1870’s when the British took control and introduced a structured form of mining called the ‘pillar and room’ system. The British also introduced a registration system for salt workers to guarantee a continuous work force and these men were the only ones allowed to work in the mines.
Both mining process and worker system are still used today with descendants, generations later, still working as their forefathers did. Besides the Pakistani Government now controlling the mines, very little else has changed for well over a century.
The mines remain labour intensive and relatively un-mechanized due to the remote location of many mines in the mountains of Punjab Province. Workers toil in the darkness with only naked flames for light. The work is hard and dangerous with the miners blasting large blocks of salt from the mine wall using a concoction of gunpowder and other chemicals. The salt is then simply broken up in to manageable sized pieces and loaded on to tractors and trailers, which then make their way to the surface. Some mines still even use donkeys to access the deepest and un-accessible corners of the mines.
Whilst the work is hard and the pay is small, for this region salt mining of pink rock salt provides employment where there are little other options.