Questions and answers

Salt: what actually is it?
Solid salt is the crystalline compound of electrically charged particles in what is known as the ionic lattice. Salt solutions conduct electrical current. In common salt, i.e. chemical sodium chloride (NaCl), the light metal sodium combines with chlorine gas and crystallises in the form of cubes. The appearance of snow-white common salt no longer resembles that of the two original substances it contains (photograph).

How does salt get into the sea?
Scientists are not in agreement on this question and there is still no definite answer. It is assumed that salt reached the primeval oceans through volcanic activity and water erosion as the red-hot earth cooled down, so the oceans must have contained a certain proportion of salts ever since they came into being.

How much salt is there in the sea?
There is an unimaginable and almost inexhaustible quantity − to be more specific, about 50 quadrillion tonnes. This number has no less than 16 zeroes! If we picture this quantity as a compact cube of salt, its edges would be 283 km long, equivalent to the distance between Basel and Lugano.

Why does salt taste salty?
The sodium ion determines the quality of the taste of salt. Common salt (sodium chloride) tastes better than potassium or magnesium chloride. The tongue cannot be tricked, because salt is the only thing that tastes like salt. “Salty” is one of the basic taste sensations, along with “sweet”, “sour”, “bitter” and “umami” (similar to glutamate) (chart).

What are the differences between rock salt, evaporated salt and sea salt?
In chemical terms, there is no difference whatsoever. However, the methods of obtaining these types of salt do differ. Rock salt from primeval oceans is extracted in dry form by direct mining. If the salt is leached out with water, transported as brine and crystallised by boiling, it is known as evaporated salt. Salt obtained by evaporation from seawater is called sea salt.

How much salt is extracted throughout the world each year?
An impressive total of 200 million tonnes, including sea salt and salt obtained from brine.

How much salt is extracted in Switzerland each year?
The Swiss Saltworks produce an average of 400,000 tonnes per year. This is equivalent to a cube of solid rock salt with edges measuring 57 m in length (chart).

Where can rock salt strata be found in Switzerland?
Deposits extend from the central Swiss Midlands (Mittelland) into western Switzerland and under the Jura mountain range from the Rhine to Neuchâtel. Deposits in the north are 100–300 m below the earth’s surface and those in the west are at depths of up to 3,000 m. The primeval Triassic Ocean made excellent provision for us, and reserves will last for centuries to come (chart).

How much salt does a human being need?
We do not need much, but we do need a daily intake. On average, an adult weighing about 70 kg needs approx. 4–6 g, depending on physical activity. This amounts to 2 kg of JURA-SEL® per year for a mere two Swiss francs, including iodine and fluorine.

And what about animals? How much salt do they need?
Of course, the quantities vary greatly depending on the desired performance or yield. The daily requirements for agricultural animals are as follows: horse 50 g, milk cattle 90 g, beef cattle 25–40 g, calf 15 g, pig 20 g, sheep 5–7 g, poultry 4 g and goat 2–5 g. The salt is mixed into the feed or offered in the form of salt lickstones. If herbivorous wild animals are running short of salt, they seek out their own additional supply from rocks containing minerals and springs that are rich in minerals or salt. Carnivorous wild animals obtain sufficient salt from their prey.