An oil company drilling for oil in the Lindbergh district in 1947 not only discovered crude oil, but also a good natural gas deposit as well as a salt bed over 300 feet thick. This find led to the formation of the Alberta Salt Company, a project backed by three different oil companies located in Alberta.
With the announcement that a salt plant would be built somewhere in our area, the Elk Point Chamber of Commerce lobbied the salt company and tried to have the plant built near Elk Point. They were, however, unsuccessful. The Lindbergh site was chosen because of its proximity to the North Saskatchewan River, which would provide an ample supply of water needed by the salt plant, the good supply of natural gas nearby, and the railway line which was already located in the immediate area.
CANADIAN SALT PLANT - at Lindbergh, Alberta, in its earlier days.
The construction of the plant started in 1947, and it was put into operation in July 1948 however its official opening was delayed until March 19, 1949. According to a St. Paul Journal news write up, the official opening attracted 2 cabinet ministers, 31 MLAs, and many business leaders and newspaper editors from all parts of Alberta, all arriving by special train from Edmonton. There were many rural and village residents in attendance as well. It was revealed at this opening that the cost of building the salt plant exceeded one million dollars.
The General Manager of this salt plant was G. L. Williams, who had his headquarters set up in Edmonton. Bert Ayres was the plant manager and Alec Wyness was the plant foreman.
In 1951 a new salt company was formed to replace the Alberta Salt Company. It was known as the Canadian Salt Company. In 1953 H. Sills became the plant manager, and in 1956 he was followed by John Williams. Mr. Williams held the position for many years before retiring a few years ago.
The salt beds were located 2600 feet below ground level. The method of extracting salt from this level was by using double eased wells. Water was first pumped down to the salt deposit through the outer casing well. There it formed a brine. The brine, being heavier than the water, sank to the bottom of the cavity and was then forced to the surface through the inner casing by the pressure of the water being forced down through the outer casing. The crystal salt was then recovered by evaporating the water.
In 1951 the St. Paul Foundry developed a method which enabled the salt company to fuse salt. Consequently, the Canadian Salt Co. was credited with being the first plant in the world to fuse salt on a large scale. The enormous amount of salt produced daily was marketed under the trade name of "Cascade."
The Canadian Salt Company provided a tremendous boost to Elk Point as well as all other surrounding communities. At one time the salt plant had a full time staff of 100 workers and strongly contributed to the economy of the town and district. Today, not as much salt is produced as in peak years, however, it is still considered a very vital industry in our part of the province.
The Canadian Salt Company is in its 46th year of operation. Today's works manager of the plant is Ken Palamarek, and Alvin Meger, Walter Lesyk and Garry Gulayec are in charge of the operation of the plant.
Among the long term workers of the salt plant was Fred.McAleese, who was one of the original laborers - he worked there for 40 1/2 years. Another long term worker is Raymond Hammond, who has been employed there for 42 years. Others were Neil Nelson, Alf Fakeley, Sheila Lorenson, Edith Young, Dan Allen, Tom McLennan, Augie Bartling, Chester Merrick, Walter Lesyk and Alvin Meger. There were others as well.
For many years the salt produced at the plant was shipped mostly by rail, however it is now hauled by large trucking firms.
I still remember some of the early stages of development at this salt plant. In 1947 I was a "roughneck" on the oil crew that drilled the initial salt well at the salt plant site. Our oil rig also drilled a couple of gas wells in the area.
Part of my job besides working at the drilling rig table was filing the many core samples taken from the inner core bit in long flat wooden boxes. Being a souvenir collector, I managed to withold three small cylindrical core samples, one of limestone, one of iodized salt and one of pure white salt. These were about the first salt samples to come out of the original salt well in 1947. I still have them on display in my museum in Elk Point.
Many other core samples taken from this original salt well had small sea shells imbedded in them, which would indicate that at one time, hundreds of thousands of years ago, the area we live in was a large sea or vast body of salt water. It is estimated that there is enough salt in this bed to supply all of Canada for the next 2000 years.