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Russalt company is the largest salt producer in Russia and the CIS countries. We believe that the only way to create the best is to do the job perfectly.


The production subdivisions of Russalt are based on the oldest salt mining enterprises, extracting salt at the Iletsk, Baskunchak and Usolye salt deposits, which have a centuries-long history of mining. Let us go back hundreds of years and trace the history of the origin of Russia’s salt industry.

Iletsk Deposit

Nature has generously endowed the Orenburg Region with precious gifts. One of them is countless deposits of the purest rock salt near Sol-Iletsk. The beginning of the history of salt mining in Russia is rooted in the mists of time. Thus, the first news about Iletsk salt dates back to the 16th century (during the reign of Ivan the Terrible), by the time the famous map of the Russian state “The Big Drawing” was compiled. The mention of Iletsk salt can also be found in the First Complete Collection of Russian Laws (1723).

The First Mention of Iletsk Salt,XVI century

At that time, the scale of salt deposits was known yet , there was no information about its composition and quality. Mining was carried out by open method, manually. The labor of settlers, working people and convicts was widely used. The work in the industry was hard. The convicts broke salt blocks with picks and “bars” – logs with ironed ends. Salt was dragged in tubs, stretchers, it also was transported on wheelbarrows. The convicts knew well the real value of salt. They came here shackled, their hands and feet were corroded. There was no properly organized industry at that time.

This continued until, in 1744, when Orenburg province was established by royal decree. Governor I.I. Neplyuev ordered that the deposits in the Iletsk defense be inspected. Commanded by Major Kublitsky, a thorough inspection of salt deposits was made in 53 places at a depth of about two meters. Soon a salt board was opened in Orenburg.

On March 4, 1746, Orenburg Governor I.I. Neplyuev asked the Governing Senate for permission to make the Iletsk industry state-owned, and only on May 7, 1753, the Iletsk rock salt deposit was declared the property of the treasury.

With the support of state, business in the salt industry began to flourish, and in February 1770, P.I. Rychkov was appointed the head of the board of Orenburg salt affairs. Rychkov, who managed to raise productivity from 273 thousand pounds in 1770 to 359 thousand pounds in 1771. At the same time, the number of exiled workers was reduced from 200 to 100 people.

However, the imperfection of salt extraction technology, the most difficult working conditions, a sharp reduction in the number of forced laborers due to illness and death led to the fact that the productivity of the industry fell catastrophically. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Iletsk salt mine was literally on the verge of collapse.

Productivity Growth

thousand poundsthousand pounds
1770 1771

To improve matters and additional exploration of deposits in 1850, the Department of Mining and Salt Affairs sent engineer Reinke to the field. He found that the salt flange occupies over three square kilometers. A 145-meter-deep well was drilled in the open pit center. Further deepening was stopped due to the extreme hardness of the salt monolith. On the explored site, Reinke identified salt reserves of about 70 billion poods (old Russian measure of weight=16.38 kg). The scale of these studies at that time was really impressive. The introduction of a number of technical innovations, which led to a reduction in manual labor, literally revolutionized salt mining. Already in the 90s of the 19th century, the share of extracted Russian rock salt in the total volume of its production reached 20%. By the end of the 19th century, Russia was one of the world’s largest salt manufacturers. A large part of this salt was mined at the Iletsk-Sol deposit.

In 1881, according to the project of the mining engineer Yakovlev, two mines were laid, the construction of which lasted eight years. Their depth was 42 – 45 meters and only one chamber was opened for salt extraction. The ceiling of the chamber was vaulted, and the height was 4.26 meters. The development was carried out by soil-shedding and explosive methods.

The high quality of Iletsk salt was repeatedly awarded medals at industrial exhibitions: at the Paris World in 1867, the All-Russian in 1882, the Siberian-Urals in 1887, Kazan in 1890, Nizhny Novgorod in 1896. Therefore, Iletsk salt has earned universal recognition in Russia and abroad. As the best salt in the world.

At the beginning of the 30s of the XX century, work was carried out on the technical equipment of the mine, and in 1939 an engineering and technical section was created at the salt mine. In 1964, a new powerful mechanized mine with a depth of 280 meters was put into operation. Already in a year of operation, the mine produced 235 thousand tons of salt, and in 1970 its productivity reached 600 thousand tons.

The history of the development of the Sol-Iletsk mine is interesting and eventful. Currently, the salt mine, which is part of Russalt company, is a high-tech and upgraded production.

Since 2004, Russalt has begun work on the extraction of salt in Mine No. 2 with explored reserves of up to 560 million tons. Salt is mined at the Iletsk deposit by an underground (mine) method with the help of tunneling combines that beat off salt. The issuance of salt from the mine is carried out through shafts equipped with lifting complexes

A large-scale reconstruction of the mine was carried out and a new salt factory was built. Only the top grade rock salt is mined here, it is used in all industries in more than 80 regions of Russia, CIS countries and far abroad. In 1996, Iletsk salt was recognized as the best in the world by the club of professional leaders from 112 countries of the world in Paris in 1996 and was awarded the tenth European gold prize for quality.

Universal recognition

Iletsk salt as the best salt in the world

Baskunchak Deposit

Spontaneous exploitation of salt in Lake Baskunchak began with the Scythians, in the VII-IX centuries it was broken by the Khazars, in the X-XII centuries by the Polovtsy, and from the XIII century salt was broken by the Tatars. After Ivan the Terrible conquered Astrakhan and annexed the region to Moscow state, industrial development of the Astrakhan salt deposits began, opening a promising page in the history of Baskunchak salt mining.

For a long time salt business in Russia for a long time was state-owned. Proceeds from the sale of salt even in the 50s. 18th century accounted for 14% of the state budget, so the government has always been very attentive to the application of private individuals about new salt deposits. Mining on Lake Baskunchak began with the treasury in 1747. To protect the industry, they built a small fortress “Kordon” with a garrison of 50 privates and 2 officers, 40 Cossacks, half an artillery company with cannons and shells. Observation booths were set up along the shore of the lake, where the Cossacks constantly carried out sentinel service. Such impressive protection of the industry was supposed to protect it from nomadic raids and testified to the long-term plans of the government. But already 7 years after the beginning of the state development of salt, it was discontinued under the pretext of high cost. The real reason, however, was the desire to strengthen the Elton salt mine, which was being developed in parallel, for which great expenditures were made. Development at Baskunchak was resumed from 1785 to 1808, and only with the abolition of serfdom and the transfer of salt mining to private hands did it become clear that Elton’s patronage was wrong. The Baskunchak salt turned out to be much better than the Elton salt in terms of chemical composition, the shores of the lake were less swampy, and the road to the nearest Volga pier was 2 times shorter. Without titanic efforts and cruelty, but guided only by private interests, the rapid development of the Baskunchak salt industry in just a few years forced the cessation of industrial salt mining at Elton (1863) and made Baskunchak the main supplier of salt to the domestic market of Russia.

For almost 200 years, the only tools the salt makers used were a shovel and a poodle paddle. Standing almost waist-deep in the skin-eating brine, the workers used a heavy paddle to loosen the salt layer by hand and load the salt into carts pulled by camels. Thus, the delivery of more than 10 million poods of the purest Baskunchak salt to the Russian market (constituting more than 25% of total salt production at the time) was ensured by hard labor of almost 40 thousand hired chumak workers.

In May 1918, on Lenin’s personal instruction, mechanization was started: an excavator made by the American company Marion was delivered to the salt mine; in 1921 an excavator made by Bruce Airus was delivered for salt panning and loading the salt into wagons and, in June 1923, a multi-bucket excavator Lubeck with a floating crushing and sorting station was used in the salt mine. But perhaps the main event in the history of mechanisation development at Baskunchak was the construction according to engineer Y.A. Makarov’s drawings and commissioning of a fundamentally new machine in mining – the salt-collector, which became the prototype of the modern salt-collector – a unique tool in salt extraction at present. By 1934 three salt machines were already in operation on the lake; manual salt mining was completely eliminated. By 1940, salt production reaches 1.5 million tons per season, representing around 30% of the country’s total salt production.

With the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War the peaceful and constructive life of the village was interrupted – the men who had gone to the front were replaced by women and children. The country was in urgent need of salt, as the Germans had occupied the Artemovsky salt mine, the Slavyansk Salt-Making Plant and the Crimean mines. Baskunchak was essentially the only working salt mine in the country. Understanding this, the Baskunchak salt-makers did not stop shipping salt from the lake for a single day, despite the fierce bombing of the Upper Baskunchak railway junction by German aviation.

In the post-war years, research work on introducing new mechanisms and technological processes of salt extraction and processing, expanding the range of products and improving their quality became more active at the salt works. For the first time Baskunchak salt is shipped abroad: to Iran, Iraq, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. In 1972 a new salt plant was put into operation with a capacity of 800 thousand tons of salt per year, producing ground, packed and briquetted salt. During these years, about 5 million tons of salt is produced annually on Lake Baskunchak.

It is known that with a thrifty approach to mining technology, salt reserves will never run out.

It is this rule that is taken as a basis by those who today extract and process salt, bringing it to the qualities required by consumers. The task of Russalt is not only to ensure the safety of natural resources, but also to upgrade the salt processing process, to facilitate human labor.

Usolye Deposit

Usolye was considered to be the Siberian salt cellar from the dawn of time. Without salt the town itself would not exist. In 1669 the troop of Yenisei Cossacks headed by Anisim Mikhalev moving up the Angara lodged for the night in the area where at present the resort “Usolye” is located. Not far from the nights lodging site the Cossacks found a salt outflow. At that time salt was produced almost nowhere in Siberia, and the Russians had to bring it from the Ural region. At that time salt was considered to be more valuable than gold and silver. Businesslike Anisim Mikhalev together with his brother Gavriil built at the site of the found outflow a salt furnace. The salt work originated by the Mikhalevs had not stopped since then, although its owners changed: it was owned now by merchants, now by the Ascension monastery, now by the treasury, and then it was owned again by merchants. The name of the settlement changed – Mikhalev’s village, Savior salt settlement, Usolye salt settlement, later –Usolye settlement, and since 1925 – the town Usolye. The modern name – Usolye-Sibirskoe – is given to the town on April 25th, 1940.

Up to the end of the XVIII century the salt production field was owned by several owners. Its founder Anisim Mikhalev served as the Cossack commander of fifty men first in Irkutsk, and then in the Tulun burg. He was one of the most energetic Siberian researchers and mineralogists. The honor of discovery of the famous mirror stone in the Vitim district, the Baikal graphite and the Sayan nephrite belongs to him. Generally, the elder brother Gavriil and his sons Ivan, Matvey, Filat and Vavil were engaged in the salt field. Due to the lack of investments and labor power the field was not profitable. From 1671 till 1681 only 2800 poods of salt were produced there. In 1682 after Gavriil’s death the field was sold to the merchant Ushakov from Irkutsk, exactly that one after whom the river Ushakovka in Irkutsk was named. On that river his mills were situated. 

In 1740 the abbot of the Irkutsk Ascension monastery Makariy attained the transfer of right for salt production to the monastery. In the state document it was written: “…Hereby mentioned the Angarsk islands with salt streaks are given to the Ascension monastery with the purpose of salt production at its own expense for its needs and for all monks and peasants provided that the abbot contributes the fifth pood into the state treasury for supplying the service people in Irkutsk with food, and the monetary contribution to the treasury is two rubles a year; unrestricted salt sales are forbidden for the monastery until a special sovereign’s order”.

The Ascension monastery owned the salt production plant for more than sixty years. People started calling it the Irkutsk salt production plant.

Until 1923 salt was mined in a backyard way: brines were pumped up from a shallow depth, salt evaporated in square iron containers. It was a hard exhausting labor, especially in winter. Justifiably the work was called the salt slavery.

In 1923 the drill hole 692 meters deep on the Varnichnyy island came against the layer of rock salt. According to the engineer A.P.Plotnikov and the technician K.P.Shulga a new method of salt mining was offered which has been used up to the present day.

Now only legends are left from the old salt furnaces. At the new site a vacuum salt plant was built. The salt streaks, as they were called in the documents of the Irkutsk burg were only, were only small outflows from the salt layers hiding in the depths. The so-called Usolye-Bulaiskoe common salt field keeps its enormous deposits – more than 200 billion tons. They are lying in a thick layer at the depth of 0,5 kilometers.

Rock salt layers are mined by means of drill holes. For that purpose on the territory of the “Sibsol” plant several holes were drilled with the average depth of 1380 meters. Brine goes up these holes on the surface. Then it goes to the chemical processing section. Harmful impurities are removed there. Pure brine goes to the evaporation section where instead of iron containers vacuum devices are installed. The evaporated salt is transported to the drying cans where it is subjected to hot air up to 200 degrees. Then dry salt goes down to the transporter, at the end of which it is iodized and is transported to the packaging section. There it is collected in polyethylene bags and pressed mechanically into 50 kg sacks and 1 ton sacks. The best salt production result the “Sibsol” plant reached in 1976 when 275 thousand tons of salt were collected.

Today Russalt uses a unique for Russia vacuum-evaporating salt production technology, using modern energy-efficient equipment in Usolye subdivision. Deep modernization of the plant has been carried out since 2011 until 2014 and the company does not stop there at this stage. The company’s management is constantly investing in further modernization and automation of production. The key trend in the development of the company’s production technologies is the deep automation of all production processes. This is done for the most comfortable and safe work of a person. The implementation of these projects has consolidated the position of Russalt LLC as the most modern manufacturer of extra salt in Russia and the CIS countries. Today the deposit provides salt to Siberia and the Far East, delivers it to the largest cities of the country.

Modern salt processing plant in Novomoskovsk

Since 2018, the newest and most advanced plant of Russalt has been operating in Novomoskovsk, Tula Region. Today, more than a hundred employees work at high-tech production.

The production of “extra” evaporated salt is located on a modern site on an area of about 20 hectares. Russalt is a leading manufacturer and supplier of extra grade salt in Russia. This modern plant can produce edible evaporated salt of “extra” grade in annual volumes of 150-200 thousand tons, which was imported to the European part of the Russian Federation, as a rule, from the former CIS countries. Today, the deposit provides salt to the central regions of Russia, delivers it to the largest cities of the country. All types of products from extra grade salt are produced at the plant.

As a raw material for the production of salt of the highest quality, mainly deposited salt of Baskunchak Lake is delivered for processing. Due to the convenient location of the plant, many food and industrial enterprises of Moscow region, St. Petersburg and other central regions have been able to quickly purchase an important component for their production.

The volume of investments in the plant amounted to about 2 billion rubles at the start of the launch of production. In addition to the production of high-quality edible extra grade salt the plant produces a curing mixture (nitrite salt) for meat processing industry and salt for water purification and water treatment. In 2021, Russalt launched an updated line for the production of salt tablets at a plant in the Tula region. The composition has changed: the quality of products, owing to new developments, has improved significantly. The new “tablet” is also different in shape – now it is in the form of a “pad” with perfect edges. Salt pressed into tablets is used in water softening systems and for the regeneration of ion exchange resins in domestic and industrial settings. In addition, in 2022, in Novomoskovsk, Russalt will start producing extra edible salt in tubes.