Himachal aims to be new north India salt hub
Himachal Pradesh has aimed to be a major salt producer in northern India with the restoration and expansion of an old and neglected rock salt mine.
The mine will be revived at Maigal in Mandi district, some 175 km from the capital, in a big way with international help, officials said.
"The Centre has agreed to invite global tenders for Rs 3 billion through state-run Hindustan Salt Ltd (HSL) for reviving and expanding the salt mine," said Kaul Singh, the state irrigation minister.
"Besides, Rs 300 million has also been sanctioned by the Planning Commission to start preliminary work on the mine," Singh added.
"The state government is also ready to provide around 25 hectares of additional land near the existing mines to HSL," he said.
Experts say that after expansion, the mines would have the capacity to produce 66,000 tonnes of salt each year. This could rise to 100,000 tonnes per year after three years.
Officials say the salt will be extracted by a technique called "solution mining".
The mines will also produce caustic soda on a large scale.
"HSL says this salt can compete with the best rock salt mines in the world in Switzerland and Austria," Singh said.
The Mandi valley is a rich salt belt but commercial mining has not taken place so far.
The salt mines suffered neglect because they are low on iodine content. However, the salt is considered healthy in many other ways.
Currently, locals extract the crystal salt for their cattle from these mines. HCL officials say once the plant is set up, the state could become a major exporter.