Lake Erie Salt Mine Shut Down

Aug 22, 2013

One of the world's largest salt mines has been closed for at least a week while consultants and engineers try to figure out what kind of structural damage there may be in one tunnel of the mine under Lake Erie.

M.L. Schultze of member station WKSU in Kent reports.

About 100 miners each day travel some 1,800 feet down and three to four miles out under the lake to carve out the rock salt used on the nation’s roads. But Monday, owner Cargill abruptly shut it down after it got readings that indicated one of the older tunnels might have structural damage.

Cargill spokesman Mark Klein says the concerns arose during routine inspections.

“We were just getting some data readings that were making us uncomfortable about the structural integrity at a certain point there. So on Monday, we just sent all the below-ground miners home for the week with pay so we could bring in some additional equipment and bring in some consulting engineers and geologists.”

Klein says another reason the company had to send employees home was the air handling system. They had to direct it away from the production areas to the tunnel where the consultants are working. He says the exact nature of the problem has not been determined, and the shutdown could extend beyond this week. But he also noted there’s a stockpile of rock salt left over from the mild winter of two years ago.