Pakistan is a land blessed with the best by nature. Whether it is the fossil fuels or the rare gems, the hidden reserves are packed with them. That is why it has been labelled as Best Tourist Destination for 2020. Here, we are going to highlight a reserve which has a special place in boosting the country’s economy both by export and tourism i.e Khewara Salt Mines or Mayo Mines.
Nestled between the mountains of Potohar plateau is the second largest salt reserve of the world, Khewra Salt Mines or the Mayo Salt Mines. They are precisely located in the city of Jhelum and are ranked the oldest in the sub-continent region. They are known as Mayo due to the Lord Mayo who paid a visit here as a viceroy (British era). Certain areas of the mine are dedicated to the tourists that are adorned with artifacts carved out of salt.
How Khewra Salt Mines was discovered?
History is an evident part of the significance of any place. Peeking into the history of Khewra, we can move back to at least 320 BC. Alexander the Great is known for his military journey across the regions of Asia and northeast Africa. During his Indian campaign, he came across the area of Jhelum and his companion horses led to an amazing discovery of the place. Horses were found licking the stones which indicated the presence of salt. These salt mines stretch between Jhelum and Kala Bagh with a total of 300 km length, 8-30 km width, and 2200 feet height.
When trading of salt began from Khewra Salt Mines?
The salt was not used for commercial purposes until the Mughal era (17th-19th century). During the Mughal period, salt was transported to the regions as far as Central Asia. Mughal emperor declined upon the arrival of British colonials in the 19th century. The salt mine was then under the control of Hari Singh Nalwa (Commander-in-Chief of Sikh Empire) and Gulab Singh (Raja of Jammu).
What are the modern developments at Khewra Salt Mines?
The dramatic developments in salt export were seen when the British Empire took charge of the Salt Mine. They quickly analyzed the shortcomings of the area and ensured effective measures. Before the British charge, the tunnels were narrow and uneven along with poor mining conditions and raw infrastructure. The water supply and salt hoarding facilities were scarce.
British took the responsibility to level the roads inside the tunnels, to introduce warehouses for salt storage, to improve water supply, and to ensure safe salt retrieval operations. Dr. H.Wrath ( who served as a mining engineer ) is credited to the tunnel construction. There was a train track laid inside the tunnel which is now used to transport salt out through the rail cars.
Khewra Salt Mine Train
Khewra Salt Mine Railway is narrow gauge railway network built in 1930 that used to bring out salt from the mine. However, it has now been converted to transport tourists inside the mine up to the main juncture. The video of train journey into a mine is shared by a tourist on YouTube:
What is current annual production of Khewra Salt Mines?
After the partition of Indo-Pak in 1947, the salt mine is now under the rule of the Government of Pakistan. Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) is in charge of the place which is considered to hold the reserves of 82 to 600 million tons divided into 19 stories. 11 are present below the ground while 8 are above the ground.
The salt production is estimated to be nearly 400,000 tons/annum which contributes to half of Pakistan’s total salt production. In the previous 100 years, only 5 km area has only been mined. PMDC has installed modern machinery to attain the maximum potential offered by the mine.
What Khewra Salt Mine is offering?
Khewra salt also known as Himalayan Salt is termed as best rock salt. The elements such as Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sulphates are abundantly found in these reserves. The salt excavated is light pinkish or off-white which holds Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Lead, and Zinc in minute quantities. The salt excavation is done through Room and Pillar method. To make things simpler, the salt is mined out only to a half-height at a point, leaving the other half to support the roof.
Visiting Khewra Salt Mines or Mayo Mines
The area dedicated to the visitors includes several salt caves, salt lakes, monuments carved out of salt and salt sculptures. Salt bricks have been used to build Minar-e Pakistan, Badshahi Mosque, Sheesh Mahal, and the Great Wall of China which are illuminated through the lights installed within. A small 20 beds hospital is also there to treat ailing asthma patients with salt therapy. Khewra mines (Mayo Mines) host nearly 250,000 national and international visitors each year.
Khewra Salt Mines Pakistan Visit Timings
Khewra Salt Mines visitors timings are generally from 9am (PST) to 6pm (PST) except Sunday where it opens a bit early at 7:30am to accomodate maximum tourists.
How to get there to Khewra Salt Mines- Location?
Khewra railway station is fully functional to welcome tourists arriving by the trains leaving from Lahore and Rawalpindi. One can also get there using motorway route. Tourists are allowed in mine to visit only up to 6 levels. The ticket fee for locals is PKR 220/person. However, it’s nearly $15/person for foreigners. It remains open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m all days of the week including national holidays.
Google Map location of Khewra Salt Mine is shared below in case you are interested to visit it.
Local and Global Media Coverage of Khewra Salt Mines in Pakistan
Khewra Salt Mines have mesmerized many across the globe who get an opportunity to visit it. Some of them have documented their visit and we will share some of those articles below for our readers interest:
- Youline Magazine: The Salts of Time: Inside the Khewra Mine
- Dawn: A Salt Wonder for Tourists
- Arab News: Inside Pakistan’s Khewra
- Business Recorder: Pakistan World Largest Salt Mines
- Luke Duggleby Photography: Pakistan Salt Mines