Saturday 20 March 2021

136 - Khewra Salt Mines, District Jhelum, Pakistan!

Khewra is a town in the district Jhelum, about five kilometers north of Pind Dadan Khan at the foot of the Salt Range or Kohistan-e-Namak as it is called in Urdu i.e, Land of Salt Mountains. Whoever named it as thus, could not have thought of a better name. Because salt is found at dozens perhaps hundreds of places in these mountains. The most famous of all these are the mines are at Khewra. These are so huge that they are considered the second biggest in the world after Sifto Salt Mines in Canada. 


Khewra is just 35 kilometers from my ancestral village Lilla and my father sometimes shares his fond memories of Khewra where his uncle and aunt lived and he often visited them in the 1950s for extended time periods and he still visits Khewra to meet his cousin. This time I went to Khewra after several years and took my children with me to see our relatives and the world-famous mine as well, which they have read about in their textbooks. 

Needless to say, the weather on 21 July 2019, was scorching and perhaps not a good time for such kind of excursions. But to our surprise, there were hundreds of people at the resort, which shows that the place is quite popular among the people who had thronged it from far away places. It was clear that thousands of people visit this place every day. 

Some official buildings, souvenir shops and a restaurant are located at the first stop near the parking area and from here one has to cross a bridge over a seasonal stream to reach the main entrance of the mine. Which can be done on foot or by a small tram and takes just a few minutes. 

The main entrance of Khewra Salt Mines. (21.07.2019.)

Ibrahim Tariq Ansari. (21.07.2019.)

The parkigng area. (21.07.2019.)

A beautiful old building. (21.07.2019.)

A view of the resort. (21.07.2019.)

The covered path towards the main entrance. (21.07.2019.)

The dry bed of the seasonal stream between the resort and the mine.  (21.07.2019.) 

A view of the bridge.  (21.07.2019.)

کھیوڑہ کوہستان نمک کا تاریخی پس منظر

کھیوڑہ میں نمک کی دریافت 326 قبل از مسیح میں اُس وقت ہوئی جب دریائے جہلم کے کنارے سکندراعظم اور راجہ پورس کے مابین جنگ لڑی گئی۔ سکندراعظم کے فوجیوں کے گھوڑے اس علاقے میں چرنے کے دوران پتھروں کو چاٹتے پائے گئے جس سے یہ نمک کی موجودگی کا انکشاف ہوا تھا، اس وقت سے یہاں نمک نکالنے کا کام جاری ہے۔ یہ دنیا میں نمک کا اہم ترین ذخیرہ ہے۔ کوہستان نمک کا سلسلہ دریائے جہلم کے قریب بیگنوالہ سے شروع ہوکر دریائے سندھ کالاباغ میں ختم ہوتا ہے۔ اس کی لمبائی 300 کلومیٹر چوڑائی 8 تا 30 کلومیٹر اور اونچائی 2200 فٹ تا 4990 فٹ (کوہ سکیسر) ہے۔ کھیوڑہ کو ارضیاتی عجائب گھر بھی قرار دیا جاتا ہے کیونکہ یہاں کروڑوں سال پرانے پری کیمبرین عہد سے موجودہ دور تک کے حجری آثار موجود ہیں۔ 1849ء میں انگریز انتظامیہ نے نمک کی نکاسی کا کام سائنسی بنیادوں پر شروع کیا۔ 1872ء میں ایک معروف انگریز مائنگ انجینئر، ڈاکٹر وارتھ نے نمک کے ذخائر تک براہ راست رسائی کے لیئے بڑی کان کی کھدائی کرائی جو تاحال فعال ہے۔ اس وقت کھیوڑہ کی کانوں میں 17 منزلوں سے نمک نکالا جارہا ہے۔ سائسی اصولوں کے مطابق کان سے 50 فیصد نمک نکال کر 50 فیصد بطور ستون چھوڑ دیا جاتا ہے جو کہ کان کی مضبوطی کو قائم رکھتا ہے۔ کھیوڑہ کان نمک دنیا کا خوردنی نمک کا دوسرا بڑا ذخیرہ ہے یہاں دو کروڑ بیس لاکھ ٹن کے ذخائر موجود ہیں۔ 

Historical Background of Khewra, The Salt Range
Salt was discovered in Khewra in 326 BC when a battle was fought between Alexander the Great and Raja Porus at the banks of river Jhelum. The presence of salt was revealed when the horses of Alexander's troops were found to be licking at the stones while grazing in this area. Since then salt is being extracted. It is the most important deposit of salt in the world. The Salt Range starts at Begnowala* near river Jhelum and ends at Kalabagh, river Indus. Its length is 300 kilometers and the width is from 8 to 30 kilometers and the height 2200 feet to 4990 feet (Sakesar peak). Khewra is called a geological museum also because millions of years old fossils from the Precambrian period are found here. In 1849 the British administration started the work of extracting salt on a scientific basis. In 1872 a well-known British mining engineer Doctor Warth, go the main mine excavated to access the salt deposits directly, which is still in use. At present salt is being excavated at seventeen levels from the Khewra mines. According to the scientific principles, 50% salt is extracted and the other 50% is left behind as support columns, which keeps the mines stable. Khewra salt mines are the second largest deposits of edible salt, here 22 million tons of deposits are found.

Brief History of PMDC Salt Mines Khewra
Tourist Resort

326 BC        Discovered by the licking of out crop salt by the horses of Alexander The                             Great who fought battle with Raja Porus. 

1500 AD     ASP Khan local leader of Khews informed the King  Akbar the Great abou the                     existence of salt deposit in Khewra. Minining initiated. 

1809            Sikhs taken [took] over the salt mines from Mughals. 

1849            British rulers taken [took] over the salt mines. 

1853            Aspiring [a spring ] of drinkable water was discovered and conveyed to                                 Khewra through a wooden tunnel.

1856            Motorable road was laid down between Khewra and P. D. Khan.  

1872            Dr. Warth first Chief Mining Engineer surveyed whole mines and introduced                        scientific mining system. He laid out main tunnel at ground level.

1886-87       Railway Bridge (Victoria) was constructed over the river Jhelum between the                        Railway Junction Malakwal and Khewra. 

1889-90       The salt production crosses 50,000 metric tonnes. 

1902            Hospital established to provide medical facilities to miners and workers of the                     salt mines.

1914            Production was reached 80,000 metric tonnes.

1918            Two steam engines were used in the mines for the carriage of rock salt.

1924-25       Power House with Two Disel Electric Generating sets, 500 HP were installed. 

1932            Chain cutter machines were imported.

1933             Automatic loading plant was installed. 

1971            The mines were switched over to WPIDC.

1974            PMDC taken over the mines from PIDC.

1998            Mining tub system switched over to tractor trolley system.

2002            Khewra Salt Mines Tourist Resort established. 

2003            Inauguration of Khewra Tourist Resort. 

2005            Khewra Asthma Clinic was Established. 

2007            Asthma Clinic working started.

2010            Renovation of Khewra Tourist Resort.  


                Chemical Name                Sodium Chloride      NaCL

                Mineralogical Name         Halite

                Hardness                           2.5

                Specific Gravity               2.16  Usually includes traces of Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)
                                                         Magnesium Sulphate (MgSO4

                Sulphate                           Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4), Potassium Chloride (KCl) and
                                                         Magnesium Bromide (MgBr2)

                Common Use                   Seasoning agent, preservation of foods and edible purpose.

                Salt                                  Derived from the Latin word "Salarium" which means Salary, it 
                                                        served as amon in ancient Ethiopia & Tibet.

                Industrial Uses                Salt is the source of
                                                        1. Chlorine and its principal compounds 
                                                        2. Sodium  and its compounds

                Chlorine Compounds      Hydrochloric Acid, Chloroform, Carbon Tetra Chloride, Bleaching

                Sodium Compounds       Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulphate, Baking Soda i.e. Sodium 

                Uses                                Preservative for meats, Refrigeration Process in Dyeing, 
                                                       manufacturing of Soaps and Glass. Salt Crystals are used in the                                                                  study of infrared study.                 

A beautiful mosque at the resort.  (21.07.2019.)

Another view of the mosque.  (21.07.2019.)

A very interesting story is told in connection with the discovery of salt in this region. The credit for which is given to the horses of Alexander the Great's army in 323 BC. It is said that the soldiers noticed some horses licking on the rocks and on checking found them to contain salt. No doubt that the horses of this great general would be very smart but it is difficult to imagine this idea did not occur to any local horse or donkey etc before them. After all, we know that just across the river existed the thickly populated and well-organized kingdom of Raja Porus, having many horses and even elephants. I am not sure how fond elephants are of salt but horses could have accomplished this job long ago. 

Inside the tunnel. (21.07.2019.)

Huge chambers have been formed due to salt excavation on both sides of the tunnel, filled with water. (21.07.2019.)

The first thing which one feels inside the mine is the sudden drop in the temperature. Which is much cooler than the outside. A considerable length of the mines are open for tourists and many attractions have been constructed with bricks of pure salt for the enjoyment of tourists. One of them is a mosque and another a replica of Minar-e-Pakistan. There are many ponds that add to the beauty of the interior. The whole place is well lit and safe for the visitors. A guide leads the groups of visitors and informs them about the different attractions and features of the mines. However, one should keep an eye on children lest they get very close to the ponds. 

A mosque inside the mine built with salt bricks. (21.07.2019.)

A section of the mines lit with colourful lights. (21.07.2019.)

A replca of the Minar-e-Pakistan. (21.07.2019.)

This replica is too built with the salt bricks(21.07.2019.)

Another of the many ponds in the mines. (21.07.2019.)

Pillars constructed with pure salt along the side of acorridor. (21.07.2019.)

A big hall with a beautiful pool. (21.07.2019.)

Another decorative structure. (21.07.2019.)

Beautiful decorations in the pool. (21.07.2019.)

My family enjoying the fascinating surroundings and the cooler temperature. (21.07.2019.)

At the junction of two mines. (21.07.2019.)

Another of the many huge water poools in the mine. (21.07.2019.)

A wooden bridge over a large water pond. (21.07.2019.)

A souvenir shop. (21.07.2019.)

A section of the mine supported with large wooden beams. (21.07.2019.)

The mines are definitely a great wonder of nature and a source of income as well. The mines are a popular source of salt for a very long time. During the Mughal period and later during the Sikh rule, these mines were used to extract large quantities of salt. The British government of India introduced new technologies and techniques and increased production. It is estimated that the total deposits of salt are around 6.7 billion tons. These huge deposits can easily meet Pakistan's requirements for local use and export for many centuries. The nearby town Pind Dadan Khan owed its importance to a large extent to these mines. 

Tariq Amir
March 20, 2021.
Doha - Qatar.