Not Many People Know About The City 1200 Feet Below Detroit
So how exactly did all of this salt get underneath the city of Detroit? About 400 million years ago, there was an area of land that is now called the Michigan Basin. This area was separated from the ocean but kept sinking lower and lower into the Earth. Because it continued to sink, the salt water from the ocean poured in as the ocean receded. Once the ocean water evaporated, it left behind huge salt deposits.
Throughout hundreds of thousands of years, the Niagara Escarpment was formed. This was a large basalt rock area that covered a lot of land, including the whole state of Michigan. Because of this rock, it buried the salt mine, basically preserving it 1200 feet below the Earth. According to some estimates, there is 71 TRILLION tons of unmined salt in these mines. Even though salt is not currently a hot commodity, it was at one time. For example, a long time ago in China, salt coins were used for payments and salt cakes were used in the Mediterranean. Even Romans paid their soldiers in salt!
When the salt was discovered in Detroit in 1895, everyone was thrilled! The Detroit Salt and Manufacturing Company came in 11 years later, in 1906, and decided to start digging a shaft down to the salt. But during this process they went bankrupt due to the high cost of the project, and many workers lost their lives. But they kept on trying. In 1910, The Detroit Salt and Manufacturing Company completed the 1,060 foot shaft and began working on the second salt bed. They were bought by Watkins Salt Company. After the shaft was completed and the second salt bed complete, they increased their productivity and purity. By 1914, they were able to produce approximately 8,000 tons of rock salt each month.
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Due to the productivity, The International Salt Company who had purchased the mine from Watkins Salt Company, decided to increase the productivity even more! They employed more men and used better equipment, which included electric power, locomotives, and mechanical shovels. They decided to build a second shaft in 1922 and finished it in 1925, which increased the capacity of the mine and also decreased the amount of time spent hoisting the salt to the surface.
Mining underground was not easy, by any means! Even in modern day conditions, underground mining is not an easy way of living, so you can imagine how harsh it was in the 1900s. They decided to start using donkeys to help with the workload, but due to the conditions, a lot of them would die an untimely death. The equipment that was used underground often stayed there too. It was just too hard to get them back through the 6×6 foot narrow shaft opening.