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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 10:31 GMT
Salt miners beat the freeze
Salt miner
Staff are keeping the mine working 24 hours a day
With the threat of arctic conditions sweeping across Britain, staff at the country's only salt mine are working overtime to produce enough grit to keep roads open.

Forecasters have warned this week that the UK faces sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow.

Local authorities are desperate to avoid a repeat of last year's traffic chaos when motorists were trapped for up to 20 hours as parts of the motorway network ground to a halt.

Road gritters use over one million tonnes of salt every year with the only domestic salt source being Winsford Rock Mine in Cheshire.

To meet the extra demand for salt, workers are staffing the mine 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Salt mine
Extra supplies are needed to prevent more traffic chaos
A spokeswoman for the mine said: "We are the main supplier for the Highways Agency and most local authorities.

"The harsh winter conditions mean we are having to increase our turnover and everybody is working overtime."

Winsford Rock is the only working salt mine left in the UK.

Located more than 520-feet below ground, the mine has an underground road network of more than 110 miles.

About two million tonnes of de-icing rock salt is mined every year at the site which opened in 1844.

In January 2003, the Highways Agency was caught out by bad weather and was unable to grit some of the busiest roads in the country.

The M11 motorway north of London became gridlocked with many motorists forced to spend the night in their cars.

The Highways Agency later apologised to motorists caught up in the gridlock.

Thousands trapped in snow storm
31 Jan 03  |  England


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