the branch of the food-processing industry concerned with the extraction and processing of common salt—a vital foodstuff and industrial raw material.
Methods for extracting salt from seas and lakes were first developed in Egypt, Greece, and Rome long before the Common Era. Salt was first produced in Russia in the early 12th century. In the USSR, 13.4 million tons of salt were produced in 1974, compared to 4.4 million tons in 1940. Highly mechanized large-scale enterprises have replaced the hundreds of small prerevolutionary saltworks and ponds where manual labor had predominated. The salt industry is concentrated in certain geographical areas; 75 percent of the rock salt produced comes from operations at Lake Baskunchak and the salt mines of the Donbas. The salt industry has been developed at Sol’-Iletsk, Solotvina (Transcarpathian Oblast of the Ukrainian SSR), Usol’e-Sibirskoe, and Solikamsk and in certain parts of Kazakhstan. There are also smaller enterprises in Transcaucasia, Middle Asia, and Western Siberia. As of 1976, major new salt mines were being worked in Irkutsk and Donetsk oblasts, and construction was under way on powerful evaporation plants in lavan (Tadzhik SSR) and Mozyr’ and on saltworks in Berezniki and Kalush (Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast, Ukrainian SSR). This expansion increases the geographical distribution of the industry and provides for the combination of certain production processes.
The 42 enterprises of the salt industry, comprised of saltworks, evaporation plants, and other installations for extracting salt from brine, produce all forms of salt, including brine, hard salt (including vacuum pan salt), crushed salt, salt blocks with supplements, grainer salt, and iodized salt. Labor productivity in the salt industry in the early 1970’s was 1,270 tons per workers, compared to 86 tons in 1913 and 683 tons in 1940. The degree of mechanization rose to 44.5 percent as a result of new technology and larger enterprises. Many processes are automated. Planned improvements include significant increases in the unit capacity of evaporators, the installation of pipelines to transport salt from lakes, and the automation of packaging lines. The greatest achievements in the comprehensive mechanization of extraction and processing have been attained at the Sverdlov and Volodar-skii mines and at mine no. 3 of the Artemsol’ Mining Directorate in the Donbas, each of which produces approximately 1.5 million tons of salt per year.
One of the latest trends in the salt industry is the wider use of sylvinite wastes from the potassium industry and liquid wastes from the stills of plants producing soda water. This trend is important for optimizing the use of natural resources, protecting the environment, and securing the fullest possible use of salt-bearing raw materials. New approaches holding particular promise include the use of wastes from the desalinization of seawater and a fuller use of the hot springs and brines of Sivash, Kara-Bogaz-Gol, Lakes Kuchuk and Kulunda, and elsewhere. The salt resources in the USSR are vast.
In 1973, world production of salt totaled 147 million tons, compared to 43.4 million tons in 1950, with socialist countries accounting for 28 percent of the total. Salt industries have been developed in Poland, Rumania, the German Democratic Republic, and the Korean People’s Democratic Republic, whose respective production figures for 1973 were 3.1, 3.3, 2.3, and 0.5 million tons. Salt is also produced in Bulgaria, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.
In the capitalist world, the salt industry is most highly developed in the United States (39.8 million tons in 1973), the Federal Republic of Germany (8.7 million tons), Great Britain (9.3 million tons), France, India, Canada, Italy, Mexico, and the Netherlands. In the United States, 55 percent of the salt is supplied in the form of brine, and the chemical industry consumes 63 percent of the total salt output, compared to 44.2 percent in the USSR. The salt industry of the United States comprises 100 enterprises, controlled by 52 companies; 12 firms account for 88 percent of the total output.
The USSR exports 346,000 tons of salt per year, principally to Czechoslovakia and Hungary but also to, among other countries, Yugoslavia, the Mongolian People’s Republic, Denmark, and Finland.