Cochise College           Student Papers in Geology

Geology Home Page                   physical geology  historical geology  planetary  gems           

Roger Weller, geology instructor

German salt deposits
by John Beech
Historical Geology
Spring 2010

German Salt Mines





The goal of this paper is to broaden the knowledge about the German Salt Mines/deposits. I will discuss where it is located, the formation of the salt mines, and its uses.



The German salt mines and deposits were found in the Northern Basin of Germany. For an idea of where it is located; the North German Basin extends as far north as the coasts of the Baltic and North Seas; the Central Uplands (also known as Mittelgebirge) to the south; to the lower Saxony hills to the west; and to Poland to the east. In the map below, the dark green area is a good representation for where the North German Basin is located.

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

          Within the Basin, some major terrain features include the Elbe River, the Oder River; and major cities including Hamburg, Hannover, and Bremerhaven. Also this area is of major military importance because of major naval ports and two key European invasion points using the two seas as access points. To be brought up later, this salt rich area is also vital in storage of chemical wastes.



          The salt dome of the North German Basin was created roughly 250 million years ago, during the Permian Period. This time consisted of a warm and arid climate in which large amounts of salt were deposited after the evaporation of the oceans. This created large structures and formations that make up part of the North German Basin.

          Research done today, has proven that there is very little “geochemical” change that has occurred in the salt today since it was first created about 200-250 million years ago. This process was did not just occur. According to a German website (Origin of a Salt Dome), the deposits continued to build during the Triassic period which occurred 205 million years ago, the Jurassic which was 135 million years ago, and the Cretaceous which took place only 65 millions of years ago.

Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 2: Courtesy of "Origin of a Salt Dome"

          The Figure above demonstrates the continuing building up of the salt throughout the Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. As more salt water evaporates, more of the salt is deposited.



          One of the main uses for the salt deposits is chemical waste disposal. The central area of the deposit is what works for the disposal of waste (Salt Deposits).

          The process consists of drilling deep into the center. The oldest area of the deposit has the most protection due to the buildup of the salt and rock around it. Then the chemical waste is placed inside. Following this, the hole is then refilled with rock and salt, packing it in tight so that no waste can escape.

          After all of this, with the passage of time, the waste soaks into the salt naturally, and the risk of the waste is no longer there seeing that salt acts as a natural purifier.

          In the German salt deposits, a hollow space was created in 1909. The space was completely filled by 1960. The rock pressures keep this area contained and safe.

          Another use of the German salt deposits is tourism. Though it is located in southern Poland, it is still considered part of the German Salt deposits. The town of Wieliczka is home to an incredibly long running table salt mine that ran from “the 13th Century to 2007” (Wikipedia), and is known as the “world’s oldest operating salt mine”.

          The tourism aspect comes from the massive structures built from the rock salt in the mine. These include statues and even a cathedral completely built from salt. According to a Wikipedia article on the Wieliczka Salt Mine, there is a tour that consists a 3.5 kilometer route which is only about one percent of the total mine length.

          According to a travel guide to the mine, a French observer stated: “the Wieliczka salt mine was no less magnificent than the Egyptian pyramids”. The mine is now part of the World Heritage Register of UNESCO.

          The history of the mine has been demonstrated in books and motion pictures, but the mine is mostly known for its use by the Nazi Germans for “war-related industries”.

The picture below is a rock salt carving of the late Pope John Paul II.


Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3: Courtesy of Wikipedia


          In conclusion, the German Salt mines/deposits have proved themselves useful throughout hundreds of years. Whether it is to safely store chemical waste, or to house military industrial sites, or even to promote economic growth through tourism, the uses and profits are endless. The location being of both great military strategic and easy access for import and export has also proven itself useful. The natural phenomenon has once again proven to benefit the occupants of Earth.



Work’s Cited

1.     Ascent, During The. "Orgin of a Salt Dome - Endlagerung in Deutschland."
Endlagerung in Deutschland - Endlagerung in Deutschland
. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.

2.     German Flag/Germany. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

3.     "File:DSC03850.JPG." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

4.     "North German Plain." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.

5.     "Salt Deposits - Endlagerung in Deutschland." Endlagerung in Deutschland -
Endlagerung in Deutschland
. Web. 22 Apr. 2010.

6.     "Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow | Ancient Salt Mine in Poland.
" Krakow Info | Krakow in Poland | Cracow. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

7.     "Wieliczka Salt Mine." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.