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Poland’s Historic Salt Mine

March 8th, 2012

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Did you know the longest functioning mining site in the world is located in Wieliczka, Poland?

The historic salt mine has been in continuous operation since the Middle Ages, and reflects the progress of mining technology, the development of work organization and management, and the introducing of industry legislation since the Middle Ages.

Salt was once an economic foundation of the state and used as legal tender, replacing metal coins. It was acquired from brine springs through heating the brine and the vaporization of water. There are no records confirming when the excavation of rock salt began, but it is believed that, during the digging of the brine wells, a salt deposit was discovered, and excavation with primitive tools began.

The contemporary Polish monarchs were quick to realize the value of the white ore and introduced a monopoly over the mining and distribution of salt – large amounts of salt were needed for conserving meat, butter, and fish, tanning hides, and later, for the production of gun powder.

Historical records demonstrate that Wieliczka was the largest salt-making centre in Malopolska as early as the 10th – 11th century, and it was known as Magnum Sal, or Great Salt. It extends over 5.5. kilometers and is between .5 and 1.5 kilometres wide. In seven hundred years, 26 surface shafts and 180 smaller shafts connecting different levels of the mine were excavated.

In 1978, the Salt Mine was inscribed into UNESO’s First World List of Cultural and Natural Heritage. And as of 2004, the site has been embraced as a historic monument, and ongoing underground work aims to protect this historical substance.

For more information about the history of the mine, you can visit online at

What other historical treasures are waiting for you in Poland? Read on to find out!

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