Salt-"White Gold"

One of the most valuable trade items from earliest times was salt. It is not a condiment like pepper or mustard or ketchup, but a mineral, NaCl, sodium chloride. Humans need it to live. Our nervous systems can’t function without it. Its prevalence shows in the many phrases connected with salt: a valuable person is the “salt of the earth,” which is how Christ referred to his apostles; a useless person is “not worth his salt.”
One of the oldest ways of obtaining salt was by boiling or evaporating sea water. This was done in ancient Egypt; in ancient Gaul (the Romans’ name for France); in France in the eighteenth century, to avoid paying the salt tax; and in India in the twentieth century as a way to gain independence from England and the British salt monopoly. This is a very expensive and labor-intensive way to get salt compared to mining rock salt. Currently in the United States, between two and three million tons of salt are mined each year from a mine that runs under the center of the United States, from Detroit and Cleveland south to Louisiana. This salt mountain is as big as Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on earth. Only four percent of the salt that is mined is consumed; the other ninety-six percent is used to de-ice roads and by the chemical industry, which breaks it down into sodium and chloride. America also has the Great Salt Desert in Utah, and the Bonneville Salt Flats, where cars are test raced.


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