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Britain is surrounded by seas full of salt. We even have mines which produce the stuff, with our biggest mine, operated by Salt Union in Cheshire capable of producing 30,000 tonnes a week.
Yet, when it comes to salting the UK's roads this winter to keep us all moving, there's only one solution available to the UK's transport chiefs. Ship it in from Australia. We are importing 120,000 tonnes of salt from 12,000 miles away in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year's fiasco when depots ran out of supplies during the long winter.
The cost of the Australian salt is said to be around £60 a tonne to buy, ship and store - double the price of domestic salt from mines in Cheshire, Cleveland and Northern Ireland and about the same price per tonne as coal. The salt, after its seven week journey on the high seas, will be split between Redcar, Teesside and Avonmouth, Bristol.
The shipments will help create Britain's first national stockpile of gritting salt, a 250,000 tonne reserve - costing £15.5 million - designed to bail out local authorities which find themselves short of salt should the country be gripped by another hard winter. In 2002 total world production of sodium chloride was estimated at 210 million tonnes, the top five producers being the US (40.3 million tonnes), China (32.9), Germany (17.7), India (14.5) and Canada (12.3).
I never thought I'd see the day when rock salt cost the same as coal. Did you?