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Wilson takes trip down under to Carrickfergus salt mine

The Finance Minister Sammy Wilson recently visited the salt mine in Kilroot, Carrickfergus, which is responsible for supplying approximately 90,000 tonnes of salt each year for spreading and de-icing of highways and carriageways in Northern Ireland.
Friday, 1 March 2013

Jason Hopps, Mine Surveyor and Minister Sammy Wilson
Pictured with the Minister is Jason Hopps, a ISME Mine Surveyor

The Department of Finance and Personnel’s Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) previously awarded a contract worth almost £3million to the mines operators, Salt Sales Company which is part of the Irish Salt Mining & Exploration Co. (ISME).

During the visit, the Minister said: “I appreciate getting this unique opportunity to visit one of Northern Ireland’s vitality important industries in terms of delivering an essential product to our roads service. The sheer magnitude of the salt mine on our shores is remarkable.

“It is refreshing to hear of business continuing to do so well during these tough economic times. Along with the unique service they provide, ISME also has an important role within our local economy as they contribute in the region of £7million per annum and currently employ 55 full-time staff.”

In previous years ISME have exported salt to wide range of countries such as the U.S., France and Iceland but recently the UK and the Republic of Ireland has been their main market. As a guide, two thirds of their production generally ends up in Scotland, England and Wales with the majority of that going to Scotland. The final third would be distributed around Ireland, both North and South, with the most of that being used in Northern Ireland.

The Minister concluded: “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and it was really interesting to hear ISME’s methods on how they extract, store and transport the salt, it is an extraordinary procedure. I was also impressed to hear about their plans for the future, as they have recently announced plans for a £7million development of a new mine entrance. Work on this is due to begin in March this year, which will build upon the success they are currently experiencing and ensure it is sustainable.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Salt Sales Company is part of the Irish Salt Mining & Exploration Co. (ISME). It started mining at Kilroot, Carrickfergus in 1965. It is the only salt mine in Ireland, and one of only three in the UK.
  2. DFP Central Procurement Directorate’s Infrastructure team, on behalf of the Department for Regional Development’s Roads Service, awarded a contract in August 2011, worth almost £3million per year for the supply of ground rock salt for winter maintenance. The contract includes the provision of significant contingency supplies in the event of a repeat of the worst of 2010/2011 cold weather.
  3. The mine is accessed through an entrance located on the north shore of Belfast Lough, and heads inland at a decline of 1:5 gradient. The mine stretches around 3km towards Ballycarry, at a depth of 400 metres below the surface.
  4. Media enquiries should be addressed to the Department of Finance and Personnel Communications Office on Tel: 028 9016 3392 or 028 9016 3389. Out of Office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.
  5. Photographs are available from the Department of Finance and Personnel Communications Office on Tel: 028 9016 3392.