BY KIRA VERMOND
SALT. IT’S EVERYWHERE. Sprinkled
over fries, scattered on icy roads and
doggy-paddled through in saltwater pools.
It even makes up about ;.; per cent of our
own human bodyweight. Yet because salt
is so ubiquitous, few of us ever stop to
think about it.
Not Ken Johnston, director of sales
and customer service for Compass
Minerals, the producer of Sifto-brand salt
in Canada. After nearly two decades at the
Mississauga, Ontario, company, it’s his
business to know not only where it comes
from, but also where salt products are sold
across the country. Yet even he admits
that Sifto is so much a part of day-to-day
life in Canada, it’s practically invisible.
“The brand has been around a long
time and is sort of in the background,” he
says, mentioning there are more than
;;,;;; uses for salt, ranging from agriculture to manufacturing. (Thankfully, he
declines to list them all.)
In fact, salt mining and production in
this country are as old as Canada itself.
In ;;;;, entrepreneur Samuel Platt
tried drilling for oil in tiny, remote Gode-
but struck salt
instead. He had
tapped into the
great Michigan Salt
Bed, one of the largest
and purest salt deposits in the world.
“Fortunately for him, salt was worth more
than oil at the time,” explains Johnston.
In ;;;;—the same year as Canadian
Confederation—Platt renamed his company Goderich Salt Works and started a
boom that brought people and new spin-off businesses to the former backwater
town. By ;;;;, over ;; active salt operations had set up shop in the area. In ;;;;,
the company was folded into Sifto Salt.
Today, although most of those original
businesses are gone and Compass
Minerals is now producer of the Sifto
brand, some things haven’t changed. Salt
is still being mined near Goderich—the
largest rock salt mine in the world. It is
also produced and packaged in other
locations across Canada.
The Goderich mine isn’t on land,
COMPANY Compass Minerals,
producer of the Sifto brand
PRESIDENT Francis Malecha
EMPLOYEES More than 3,000
HEADQUARTERS Mississauga, Ontario
ITEMS AT COSTCO
Sifto Safe Step, Sifto Pool Salt (seasonally),
Sifto water softening salt, Sifto Table Salt
(look for the special 150th-anniversary
edition this year)
QUOTE ABOUT COSTCO
“We have been a supplier to Costco since
they opened their first Canadian warehouse
in Burnaby, British Columbia, and we were
thrilled when they made us their national
salt supplier a few years ago. This enables
us to serve Costco locations from all of our
salt facilities across the country.”
however, but kilometres from shore under
“It’s a huge operation,” says Johnston.
“It’s on the water on its own island.” This
is also where ships, trucks and railcars are
loaded to take the rock salt—used primarily to deice roads—to market.
To reach the ancient seabed, workers
must take an elevator, which runs every
;; minutes, down through a number of
under water lakes, then hop aboard pickup
trucks to get to work. The mine is more
than ;;; metres (;,;;; feet) below the
earth’s surface—the Empire State Building is ;;;.; metres (;,;;; feet) tall, by
comparison—and is made up of kilometres of tunnels carved out of salt. Each salt
room is large enough to host a conference
and wide enough to allow dump trucks to
pass each other.
The ships load most of the year, except
when the weather becomes too cold, the
lake freezes over and lake freighters are
unable to access the harbour. But the company has learned how to deal with the
weather, and they load trucks and railcars
during this time.
“The most common thing people say
[about the salt mine] is ‘It’s unlike anything I had imagined,’ ” says Johnston,
who has visited the mine numerous times
over the years. “It’s kind of otherworldly,
yet you’re under Lake Huron. It’s an
amazing place.” C
Kira Vermond is an Ontario-based writer
who sprinkles salt on just about everything.
thing I had imagined,’ ” says Johnston,
yet you’re under Lake Huron. It’s an
Top left: Sifto employees in the 1960s. Top right: Sifto workers pack water softener
salt in the 1950s. Bottom: The present-day Sifto mine in Goderich, Ontario.
Salt of the earth
CANADA AND SIFTO SALT SHARE
A MILESTONE BIRTHDAY