Himalayan salt doesn’t actually come from the Himalayas. It’s mined 186 miles away in Pakistan, Khewra Salt Mine. Thanks to its pink hue and supposed health benefits, the salt has exploded in popularity since the late 2000s. Today it’s turned into lamps, statues and of course table salt. But extracting the coveted salt means descending into dark caves then blasting and carrying heavy rock.
Why Himalayan Salt is pink in color?
It has three colors in it. White, Pink and Red. White is due to presence of Sodium Chloride. Pink has Magnesium and Red for Iron. 98% of the Himalayan Salt contains Sodium Chloride which is available in normal sea salt. The rest 2% contains 84 minerals.
History of Himalayan Salt
The Khewra salt mine here in the Punjab region of Pakistan is the second largest salt mine in the world. The pink salt comes from remnants of ancient seabeds that crystallized 600 million years ago. Legend has it, it was actually Alexander the great’s horse that first discovered these salt rocks. When it stopped to take a lick. Then under british rule salt mining ramped up in the 1870s. Today it’s a popular tourist destination and a working mine producing the majority of the world’s pink salt.
How Himalayan Salt is made?
All the mining starts at the train station. The train takes miners deep into the mountain. The tunnels stretch for 25 miles and it’s always 64 degrees fahrenheit. 300 miners work these dark chambers. They’ve used many of the same mining tools for over a century. Only half of the mountain salt is actually mined. The rest is used for structural support so the chambers don’t collapse.
Tractors haul the mine salt out of the mountain. Each day miners excavate over a thousand tons of salt or about the weight of 157 elephants. Outside they search for blocks with the best shape and coloring to send to manufacturers. Once picked the blocks are loaded up on trucks either by hand or crane and sent across Pakistan.
India Bought and Exported
Historically Pakistan couldn’t process this raw pink salt. So much of it was exported to India cheaply. India would treat the salt, label it as “Made In India” and sell it at a premium. Pakistan saw little of the profits. NPR reported that a ton of salt sold to India for $40 could fetch $300 in Europe.
Pakistan Changed The Strategy
In 2019 a social media campaign calling for the end of salt exports to India went viral. That same year the Pakistani government banned all salt exports to India. The goal returning the profits to Pakistan. But some Pakistani salt exporters suffered they didn’t speak english and couldn’t meet Europe’s tough import standards. Only about a dozen exporters saw an opportunity to sell products under Pakistani labels directly to Europe.
Is Himalayan Salt really healthy?
It’s such a very small percentage of the salt it makes up these minerals. You are highly unlikely to get any real benefit or any trace of them in your regular serving of salt itself. But nutritionally it’s pretty much similar to regular salt. It’s also pretty similar tasting to sea salt. But others claim Himalayan salt has healing powers whether inhaled used in spa treatments or in lamp form.
There’s a lot of different homeopathic remedies that can seem very very appealing but actually they’re not grounded in evidence. And it’s these false health claims that have driven the price up.
Price and Future
Himalayan salt can cost up to 20 times the price of normal table salt. But that money doesn’t always make it back to the miners. They take home less than 1,500 rupees a day. And those salaries have stayed the same even though Pakistan has severed its salty relationship with India. Luckily the mountain won’t run out of salt anytime soon. It’s estimated only about 220 million tons of salt have been excavated here. Nothing compared to the nearly 6.7 Billion tons left.