The Company began manufacturing operations at our salt mine in Hockley, Texas. The initial lease is dated December 1927 and the property was formally deeded in May of 1929. Commercial production of salt followed the shaft and facility building projects in 1932. The Hockley Salt Dome was initially the focus of the oil industry when in 1902 Lee, Napier, and Spears drilled to a depth of 60 feet and found a small quantity of oil. However it was the discovery of large quantities of oil at the Spindletop dome south of Beaumont that brought the attention of Patillo Higgins to Hockley. Higgins committed the resources of his exploration and production company to the Hockley dome based on surface indications of the presence of oil. In 1906 one of Higgins six wells encountered salt. Commercially successful quantities of oil were not encountered by Higgins. A decade later, drilling activity resumed at the Hockley dome by different exploration companies. This drilling activity is credited with providing a well documented map of the elevation of the salt level and the dimensions of the dome. The only unanswered question, as with most salt domes, is the depth to the bottom of the salt.The dome has an irregular shape, approximately 2 1/2 miles by 2 miles wide. Mining operations take place at an elevation 1,500 feet below the earths surface.
The Carlsbad, New Mexico, solar salt plant was acquired in 1962. Our salt is harvested on a 2,600 acre salt lake. The salt is gathered from the surface of the lake after the sun has evaporated the water from the brine, and the salt is then carefully washed three times before it is packaged into a variety of solar salt products, including 50 lb. blocks and compacted pellets. Originally, the salt at Carlsbad was sold as deicing salt for roads in Western Texas and New Mexico. Today, due to advanced purification and processing methods, much of the harvested salt is used in water conditioning. Our solar salt is also used in agricultural feed products, chemical feed stocks, for swimming pool chlorine generation and numerous other industrial applications.
We opened our new evaporated salt plant in September of 1999. This plant replaced our Blue Ridge evaporated salt facility. This plant is the only evaporated salt plant constructed in the United States in decades and utilizes the mechanical vapor recompression evaporation process to produce the salt crystals. Only the latest technological, production, and processing efficiencies and latest food safety technology were built into our new plant. The new plant produces the highest possible purity salt. We package our food grade salt in bag sizes from 25 lbs. to over 2000 lbs. The new plant dramatically increased our production of water softening pellets, and granulated salt products. We moved our new state of the art round can production line to the new plant in 2005. Our bagged product line now also includes untreated, USP and AquaSalt for swimming pool chlorine generators. Industrial salt and oil well drilling salt are also produced in this facility. The new plant is also located on rail for the best in low cost long haul transportation efficiency.