Salt, sodium chloride, table salt and halite produced in the form of rock salt or brine salt. The "eastern-Alpine salt deposit" is located in a roughly 350 km long and up to 35 km wide zone between Hall in Tirol and Heiligenkreuz in the Northern Limestone Alps; salt deposits are found in Mariazell, Admont, Altaussee, Bad Ischl, Hallstatt, Hallein, Berchtesgaden and Hall in Tirol. The salt-bearing rock is called Haselgebirge Rock (salt content 10 %-70 %). Rich prehistoric finds, like graves and evidence of underground mining activities (Heidengebirge) in Hallstatt and Hallein suggest that salt was already being mined in the New Stone Age. Underground extraction of rock salt took place in Hallstatt from 1100 B.C. and on Dürrnberg bei Hallein from 600 B.C. to the beginning of the Roman era. In the Heidengebirge mountains traces of prehistoric mining (pine chips, pickaxe shafts, bags, food leftovers, excrements, traces of pickaxe work) and bodies of miners which were preserved by salt ("Mann im Salz", Dürrnberg bei Hallein 1573 and 1616, Hallstatt 1734) have been found.
The earliest documented mention of salt production near Bad Hall dates back to 777. From the 12th century onwards the most common form of production was the underground extraction of brine and the boiling of brine as opposed to mining production in prehistoric times. The mines and saltworks were owned by Princes, Hallein was owned by the Prince- Archbishopric of Salzburg until the beginning of the 19th century, and the mine there competed with the salt mines and saltworks owned by the Habsburgs.
At the beginning of the 16th century salt production was monopolised by the Princes of Upper Austria and Salzburg. Because there was not enough wood in the area around Hallstatt and because the market was extended to Bohemia, saltworks were built in Bad Ischl (1572) and Ebensee (1607) and a new brine pipeline from Hallstatt via Bad Ischl to Ebensee (1595/1607) was established.
The extraction of salt by leaching from the Haselgebirge Rock started with scooping operations and from the 16th century onwards salt dissolving chambers (with standing or horizontal outlet) were increasingly used.
The essential difference between salt production in Austria and the rest of Europe until the 19th century was that in Austria people had direct access to the salt-containing rock in the alpine salt mines which were opened up by tunnels and that the production of brine and salt was concentrated in the hands of a "Werksherr" (works master) early on.
In 1850 these mine operations were deprived of their authoritative status and salt mining companies became business entities of the monarchy, called "k. k. alpenländische Salinen" until the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The increasing consumption of brine by the chemical industry and the saltworks in Ebensee resulted in the construction of a brine pipeline from Altaussee to Bad Ischl, which was continued to Ebensee in 1906. From the 20th century onwards the multiple-effect vacuum evaporation process was used for salt production. During the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the "k. k. alpenländische Salinen" produced 170,000 t of salt, which amounts to about 50 % of the salt production in the Austrian area of the monarchy.
After the end of the monarchy in 1918 production decreased by more than 50 %. In 1926 the Österreichische Salinen became a state-owned business. In the course of the modernisations after 1945 the thermocompression method (heat pumps), which had been developed in Switzerland and in Germany, was adopted (Hall in Tirol 1951, Ebensee 1952, Hallein 1955) in Austria. The bore hole brine production method has been used since the 1960s. Since 1965 brine production and salt extraction have been concentrated in the salt mines of Altaussee, Bad Ischl, Hallstatt and the saltworks of Ebensee (reconstructed in 1979) because the saltworks of Bad Ischl and Hallstatt were shut down in 1965, the salt mine and saltworks of Hall in Tirol in 1967, the saltworks of Bad Aussee in 1983 and the salt mine and saltworks of Hallein in 1989.
Except for the period between 1938 and 1945, Austria had a salt monopoly. Pursuant to the Salt Monopoly Law of 1978 the state-owned business of the Österreichische Salinen became an Aktiengesellschaft (AG), although the salt monopoly was maintained. When Austria became a member of the European Union in 1995, the salt monopoly became obsolete (1995). The Österreichische Salinen AG, as management and financing holding company, which had been owned by the Republic of Austria, was privatised in 1997. The most important products of the Österreichische Salinen AG are brine for the chemical industry and for health purposes, table salt, cattle salt, commercial and industrial salt, road salt, chemically pure salt for the pharmaceutical industry, special table salts, tablet salt and licking stones. The salt mines in Altaussee and Hallstatt produced 2.3 million m3 of brine per year (1998), the salt mine in Ebensee produced 500,000 t of salt.
Show-mines: Bad Ischl, Hallstatt, Altaussee, Hallein, Hall in Tirol.
Literature: J. Aigner, Der prähistorische Salz-Berg von Hallstatt, 1902; K. Kromer, Hallstatt, exhibition catalogue, Hallstatt 1963; idem, Vom frühen Eisen und reichen Salz-Herren, 1964; G. Treffer, Weißes Gold - 3000 Jahre Salz in Österreich, 1981; R. Palme, Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und Sozial-Geschichte der inneralpinen Salz-Werke bis zu deren Monopolisierung, 1983; O. Schauberger, Bau- und Bildung der Salz-Lagerstätten des ostalpinen Salinars, 1986; G. Hattinger, Die Sole- und Salz-Produktion in Österreich, 1988; W. Rausch (ed.), Stadt und Salz, 1988; Salz, exhibition catalogue, Hallein 1994; A. Komarek, Österreich mit einer Prise Salz, 1998.
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