Ukraine starts importing salt from Africa amid problems with extraction in Transcarpathia
Photo: Viktor Mykyta/Telegram

The Bushtyno salt deposit in Zakarpattya Oblast is not working at full capacity. Because of this, Ukraine is forced to source technical salt from Africa, Viktor Mykyta, head of the Zakarpattya Oblast State Administration, said in an interview with news agency Ukrinform.

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The company began to develop the field in 2022, after the Russian invasion. The work was started at a very fast pace, due to which problems constantly arose.

"The problem was that at the time of launching the development of the field, geodesy was not properly conducted. They did not plan to concrete the mine at first, later, when the passage began to fill up, it was necessary to do it. Therefore, they dug anew, put metal structures, strengthened, etc.," Mykyta explained.

And when they reached the rock and made sure that there was salt, they began to strengthen the entrance to the mine. It is dug to a length of more than 200 meters and has a depth of 70 meters. These fortifications took a long time.

"At the same time, we said that the capacity of this mine should meet all the country's needs for technical salt. And this is 400,000 tons per year. Now imagine that these 400,000 tons will leave the mining site in trucks..." he noted.

Due to the risk of trucks destroying the Mukachevo-Rohatyn and Kyiv-Chop routes, the authorities began negotiating with the state rail transport company Ukrzaliznytsia about laying a separate track to the deposit.

"There are agreements, but this issue is not resolved as of today, because the company has currently used all the investments for the construction of the tunnel and passage to the mine. Two tunnels are being built there, one is a backup, so that in case of damage to the first one, work will continue through the backup and production will not stop. The second tunnel is currently unfinished. That's why we are now saying that the company has reached the rock, they have started to remove technical salt," said the regional governor.

Another year is needed to set up the infrastructure, carry out preliminary exploration of the deposit, and complete the passage. The investor has already invested about 170 million hryvnias ($4.5 million) in this project.

At this stage, the Bushtyno deposit does not have permanent production on an industrial scale. At the end of November, practically all the mined salt was transferred to Odesa during a snow front, which stopped traffic in this region. The investor provided this salt free of charge, 54 tons of technical Transcarpathian salt went to Odesa, from which about 150 tons of mixture for sprinkling roads were made.

About 45 tons of technical salt per day are currently mined at the Bushtyno deposit. If necessary, the figure can be increased to 200 tons – it turns out 600 tons of mixture for sprinkling roads. This will be enough for Zakarpattya Oblast for itself and neighboring regions. But this amount of technical salt will not cover all the country's needs, Viktor Mykyta stressed.

Technical salt is currently delivered from African countries at 2,500 hryvnias ($67) per ton. Before the full-scale war, the cost of a ton of technical salt from Artemsil was 1,500 hryvnias ($40). When there was no salt in 2022, it was imported at a price of 7,000-9,000 hryvnias ($186-240) per ton.

The price of Transcarpathian salt from the Bushtyno deposit is now 3,000 hryvnias ($80), but the quality is an order of magnitude higher than African salt, the head of the regional administration claims.

"The manufacturer conducted examinations, it dissolves perfectly. Therefore, Zakarpattya salt will be bought. Plus, if we take into account the logistics, then the salt that arrives at the ports will be developed somewhere in the south of the country, and we will be able to cover the needs of the west and the center with our own," he noted.

On May 25, 2022 , the state-owned enterprise Artemsil, which provided 100% of the country's needs, stopped due to hostilities in Donetsk Oblast.

On August 12, the largest salt deposit in Ukraine began to be developed in Transcarpathia.

On February 21, 2023, a limited batch of Artemsil appeared in stores. The money from the sales was used to purchase drones.