THE SALT WEALTH
Pakistan is a land of rich natural wealth. It is a
land of lovely people. We have all the charming weathers here. We have
rocky mountains, vast deserts, lush green fields, forests full of
natural treasure, snowy and snow clapped lofty mountains and beautiful
valleys and lakes. Sandy shores, rivers full of sea live stock, Rich,
canals flowing to water the fields. Vast areas having precious metals
and fluids beneath it like pig iron, gold, silver, bronze, gas, gypsum
and rubies. Above all we are proud on our galliant army men known
throughout the world of their bravery. The richness of our soil is
unbelievable having rich treasures of nature beneath the surface. Hence
the Father of the Nation rightly observed about assessing the value of
our lands remarked "God has given you all kind of rich natural
resources, it is your first and the foremost duty to exploit them to the
Salt is salt! We do not know why our dishes and food
is tasty but we know it is tasty and delicious. Who makes it tasty? We
know salt makes them delicious and tasteful. Have we tried to know from
where the salt, we use, comes from? There are two methods of getting
salt, sea salt and the rock salt. The main habitat of salt lies there in
the Punjab Province at Khewra in Tehsil Pind Dadan Khan, District Jhelum.
The salt found here at Khewra Salt Mines (KSM) is the best, finest and
in natural state in the world. Salt was first worked out in Khewra which
is at about 175 K.M. South of the federal capital, Islamabad. History
tells us that long before the Alexander the great invaded the area, Salt
was being mined at Khewra at that time.
It is said that the Chiefs of "Janjua
Tribe" were the first to initiate the standard mining practices
here in the 13th Century. However, a chronology of the Moghal Rule in
the Sub-Continent says that when the Moghals emerged supreme in the
Punjab, they took over the Mine from the local tribal chiefs and,
thereafter, started to work on it properly until the Punjab Province
came under the Sikhs and so were to be the "Khewra Salt Mine".
From Punjab, the British ousted the Sikhs and renamed the Mine as the
"May Mine" in 1870. The British have been ruling over the Mine
for a long time till the emergence of Pakistan on the globe of the World
as an independent State on 14th August, 1947. There are ample proofs
that on the principle of stealing the most previous Hera from the Taj
Mahal Agra (India), the British did try to take away the keys of the KSM
with them. But we and our generations are lucky to have the KSM with us
in its original status and structure.
At present the Khewra Salt Mine is in the control of
a federally controlled corporation i.e. PMDC. The Salt Mine has million
of metric tonnes of very large deposits of good quality rock Salt. It is
said that still large quantities of Salt exist in its unexplored areas
of the Mines. The annual production of Salt at Khewra is about 300,000
tonnes according to the data released by M/o Petroleum & Natural
According to the available reports/data there is
still enough Salt to last about 400 years to come in the existing mines.
These reports reveal that about 534, 512 tonnes of fine rock Salt had
been extracted up to 1850 and till March 1923 the production obtained
from Khewra Salt Mines was 49,71,420 tonnes. The optimum output from the
Khewra Salt Mines was obtained at the time of a British Engineer (Dr. H.
Wrath) who for the first time put the mine on the scientific lines. He
worked there per about 6 years from 1872 to 1878. Because of his efforts
the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) of England established its Soda
Ash Plant at Khewra in 1938. The ICI predominately is based on the Salt
deposits obtained from the Mine. The ICI Industries have signed a
lifetime agreement with PMDC for the mining of Salt from Khewra.
EXPORT OF SALT
Not only we meet our Salt requirements from the
Khewra Salt Mines, but we also export Salt to India to the tune of 10
thousand to 18 thousand tonnes annually. It is also a source of earning
foreign exchange for the government.
Now I would like my readers to take them to the miner
side of the second largest Salt Mine of the World. The Mine is located
on the Eastern Edge of the Salt Range in District Jhelum of Punjab. It
demands one to be free from claustrophobia. It has 1290 meters long
tunnels. The Mine is an open challenge to an adventureous spirit. It has
17 levels and there are 50 feet of rock salt between each level in which
there are very large chambers, made when Salt was extracted. The Miners,
in many of these chambers, have carved some stunning spectacular
structures of Salt. One such structure is "The Assembly Hall"
that reaches up to 350 feet in height having 300 narrow Salt stairs to
reach the top. "The Badshahi Mosque" spread over 3000 sq.feet
was completed in about 50 years. There is a "Salt Bridge"
Called "The Pull Sarat" with no pillars whatsoever to support
it. It is just a narrow strip of pure rock salt 20 to 25 feet in length
and 5 feet thick with 80 feet deep ponds of brine (Saltish Water) on
both sides. There are a few more models of structures i.e. the Great
Wall of China, the Mall road of Murree, The Shimla Pahari, Lahore,
Sheesh Mahal Lahore, Dewan-e-Mohabbat and the Minar-e-Pakistan, Lahore
have also been carved out in the main Mine. All these structures are
made of pure transparent Salt that emit pink, white and red lights when
I would like to advise to those tourists suffering
from Asthma, T.B having feeble lungs should avoid to pay visit the Mine
as there are some drawbacks hygienically inside the Mine relating to
lights and ventilation arrangements. If someone happens to come to the
Mine, may put off his today's visit to some other suitable time.
In the present budget the Corporation has been
allocated a sum of Rs. 3million for its development/expansion and other
facilities to put the Khewra Salt Mines on modern scientific lines.
Our readers may be interested to know the treasure at
Khewra Salt Mine valuable since certain rocks date back 600 million
years to the "Pre-Cambrian Age" as estimated by the
But during the visit to the Khewra Salt Mines the
things which encounter to the visitors on the oneside are obsolete rail
tracks and rusted mini-train wagons grounded in an abandoned state at
quite some distance from the main Mine. These were the trains used to
carry Salt out of the Mine, but now the Salt loading and transportation
methods from the Mine have altogether changed with the advancement in
the Mining practices.
It came to the knowledge of the writer that these
workers of the Khewra Salt Mine and other Salt Range Mines are the most
accident-prone people of the World. However, there is likelyhood that in
Khewra Salt Mines incidents of carving in and casualties are rare
because almost all the workers and Miners are local residents and know
the mine better than any outsider. However, if an accident occurs the
Corporation manages to treat the injured people there at their own
hospital and in case of gravity of the situation PMDC manages to take
the sufferers to Islamabad Hospitals for better treatment.
The local labour force and workers are suffice to
work but in case of rush of work and export formalities of Salt the
Management has to higher additional workers on daily wages. The need of
the hour is that the present allocation of the Corporation may be
enhanced. It is also proposed that the Corporation may consider increase
in the wages of the Miners. It is worthwhile to note here that the
Corporation contributes Rs. 55 lac as revenue to the federal exchequer
annually. It is desired that PMDC may be allowed to extend something out
of this earning to the welfare of its employees and to maintain the Mine
as well as to improve its security nets, occupational socio-economic and
On the other side the PMDC expresses to the
Government to enhance Salt rates as almost all the utilities rates like
gas, oil and Tea have gone up.