In the year 326 B.C, during the battle between Alexander the Great and Raja Porus at the bank of River Jhelum, the sick horses licked the out-crop rocks and got well, thereby exposing this enormous treasure of salt deposit at Khewra. It is a huge and one of the richest salt fields in the world. The length of salt range is over 186 miles (300 kilometers) and width is 8 to 30 Kms with an average height of 2, 200 ft. It starts from Baganwala near Jhelum River to Kalabagh near Indus River. Its highest altitude at Sakesar Mountain is about 4990 ft. Another salt range in the country is Kohat saline series which starts from Jatta Ismael Khel and covers almost all the hilly landscape up to Bahdur Khel, District Karak.
Khewra Gorge is known as “Museum of Geology” where rocks from pre-Cambrian age to topical period are exposed. Prior to the annexation of Punjab by the British Empire in the year 1849, the salt mines in the province were owned and operated by the Janjua Rajas., and after its annexation, the British Government took over the supervision of these mines.
Centuries ago, the out-crop of the salt seams was extracted and transported by the locals of the area. Dr. Warth, a renowned Mining Engineer of UK laid out the main tunnel at ground level in 1872 to provide an easy and direct access to salt deposits. The scientific mining system introduced by Dr. Warth is still in vogue. At present there are 17 levels in the
Khewra Mines. Under this specialized mining procedure, only 50% of salt is excavated from the working seam while the remaining 50% of it is left there as pillars for the weight support of the mines.
Khewra Salt Mines is 2nd largest rock salt mines in the world. The reserve of Rock Salt in the mines is 220 million tons. Presently Khewra Salt mines produce about 3, 70, 000 tones salt per annum. Based on Khewra Rock Salt, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Soda Ash Plant was established in the year 1938. Rock Salt produced from Khewra Mines, is supplied to ICI Khewra, Itehad Chemical Limited Kala Shah Kaku, Sitara Chemical Industries Ltd Faisalabad, Tanneries and other industries. Selected quality rock salt is supplied to dealers for human and animal consumption. After meeting local requirements, a reasonable quantity is exported to foreign countries including India. It has tremendous potential for expansion in local consumption and export to other countries. Decoration pieces like; lamps, vases, ash-trays etc are also made from Khewra Rock Salts and exported to foreign countries in large quantity.
PMDC Khewra Salt Mine management discharges its social obligations. It provides basic civic amenities to the miners and local population. It runs a model high school, Girls College, a survey institute and health center in Khewra.
Scientifically it has been proved that interior of Salt mines provides environment, which helps curing allergic Asthma. for this phenomenal property of the salt mines, Asthma Resort has been established and are functional at Wieliezk Salt Mines in Poland and health resort at Ukrainian Salt Mines in former Soviet Union. On the same lines PMDC management is also establishing Asthma Resort at a separate portion of Khewra Salt mines where Asthma Patients would be treated. The patients have to spend about 110 hours inside the mines during the course of treatment. The patient will spend daily 8 hours in the mines and rest of the day’s time in the hospital compartment outside the mines. Petroleum companies like; Asia Petroleum, PARCO, OGDCL, SNGPL and PSO have made substantial contributions towards the establishment of Asthma resort. Many Philanthropist Organizations are interested to participate in this noble cause.
Inside the mine, a beautiful mosque made of different shades of rock salt bricks has been constructed. Hollow walls of Salt bricks when illuminated give a mesmerizing look. A large chamber called “Assembly Hall” measuring more than 240 feet height fascinates tourists. There are certain chambers filled in with saturated brine solution. These ponds when illuminated with fancy lights give splendid look. There is an area of transparent salt of light pink color known as “Sheesh Mahal”. Different chambers are connected with salt bridges over water ponds. Reflection of light in water ponds shows spectacular colors of Rock Salt. Predispose to which remained inundated for quiet sometimes have crystalline depositions of salt. It gives marvelous look as depicting diamond shining on walls and ceiling of mines. This area known as “Crystal Palace” proves interesting for the tourists.
The notable tourist facilities available in the mines are Reception/Briefing Hall, Restaurant, Walkway, Souvenir Shop, Pony Track, Cleaning the Mine, Illumination, Electric Tramp and Mine Guide.