Mining is done by a method developed by Dr. Warth in 1872 where 50% is mined and 50% is left as column. This ensures that mine doesn’t cave in. It is this 50% that is left which creates a beautiful ambiance inside the mine. Salt is transparent, white, pink, reddish to beef-color red. The Geological horizon, which is a gold mine for a geologist, is Pre-Cambrian (4,500 million years ago to 540 million years).
There are two ways to reach the main chamber inside the mine. Walk! Walk is about 20 minutes, depending on your speed, and the other is by mine train. This train starts from the entrance gate and will take you till the main chamber. From their you walk.
Cost is high, Rs. 400 upto 12 people (if you are 1 or 2, it is still Rs. 400). If you have elderly or little children, then train is a better option.
An old train station still exists when you enter and is operational to take salt from Khewra to rest of the country. Motorway has reduced the distance by road and one can now easily come to Khewra by road. We saw some abandoned freight cars, and broken train tracks going nowhere.
The Khewra town as well as the site reminds you about the past of this region, and how the British ruled it and left their distinct designs and architecture all around. ICI a British MNC still operates in this area mining by products from Khwera salt mines and producing Soda Ash.
The building in the picture which is at the entrance of the salt mine looks like an old office building that must have been administrative block for managers running the operation.
On various locations one can see salt deposits hanging from the ceiling, and looks as if this is icicles. Brine solution seeping from deep inside the mountains has created huge rock crystals in the shape of small icebergs that could be found inside the mine.
Now what is this tree trunk doing so deep inside the mine, as well below the mountain. It is believed that this tree stub visible is approximately 18 ft in length, with 90% buried inside. With almost 300 ft of mountain on top, one can imagine how old this tree fossil could be, and what stories it could tell.
Fortunately Pakistan does not have geologist/scientist interested in such activities, so this fossil is still preserved inside the mine and not removed ;)
Now this was totally unusual. For a long time I thought that the salt extracted from this mine was used by an MNC ICI to produce soda ash for paints. I got my chemistry totally wrong.
There are several ponds, 25-80 ft deep around the mine chambers which is collecting brine water seeping from within the mountain ranges. Several of these ponds are invisible to the naked eye due to low lighting; however 2 ponds have been lighted to show the natural beauty. Brine is crystal clear, with smooth salt formation, as if they are icebergs, visible at the bottom.
PMDC needs to light other ponds as well, and remove the man made structures/buildings to make visible the natural beauty.
To me this was the worst part, and to several this is the best. I strongly feel that the mine should be left in its original state, remove all these man made structures, or shift them outside the mine into a museum of some sort. This doesn’t gel properly with the surrounding.
Any way there is a mosque, Minar-e-Pakistan, and post office made out of salt bricks and illuminated. Post office is functional and you can mail your letters/post cards which will be marked Khewra Salt Mine post office.
Mine is operational from 300BC, with reserves enough to last at least 500 years or more. There are several levels above and below the level opened for tourists. This is the only mine in Pakistan developed as a tourist resort. After a short walk through the entrance tunnel, you reach the main chamber and starts your exploration.
Khewra Gorge is known as "Museum of Geology" where rocks from pre-Cambrian age to recent period are exposed.
There are some man made structures (mosque, stage area, Minar-e-Pakistan, post office, etc), and many natural beauty associated with the mine, which I felt is more interesting than what was made to commercialize this resort (man made stuff).
The trip is circular which brings you back to the tunnel you came through.
Do not miss the Salt Mines Post Office. It is not just a building but it is really a proper post office and you can send the post all over the World from here ! There was a post man sitting inside with his stamps book and register to manage all the post. It is also made here to facilitate the miners as well as the tourists to send mails to their loved ones back home. I was very surprised to see it !
This Post office is also made only by Salt! Have you ever imagined the the salt you put on your eggs in the morning could be so useful ? :-)
Everything in this little Masjid is made of Salt ! from Minarets to the Door Steps ! Everywhere there is salt. When we asked the guide, how have u been able to attach these bricks together ? he replied that Salt was crushed and used instead of Cement to built this masjid :-) To beautify the Masjid, they have used different colours of Salt Bricks, Red, Pink, White are the major coloured bricks. Between the Bricks they have left space for the bulbs to lit the Masjid. It was a great sight to witness such a Masjid in 21st Century !
Miners have done a lot of work here inside the mine. They work everyday for about 8 to 9 hours inside this long twisting mine. so, it was not so easy for them to get out of the mine 5 times a day to say their prayers. For this reason they built a beautiful Masjid (Mosque) inside the mine ! They have given the name of this Masjid on the famous Majid of Lahore made by Moghuls - Badshahi Masjid.
In the main chamber, this old relic, a portable cannon, is left as a reminder to the miners legacy as to how they used to blast loose rocks/salts from the ceiling to clear mines and move forward.