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Published: December 2008
Salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Accurate estimates of salt reserves are not available because of its abundance. The world's oceans contain an inexhaustible supply of salt. Identified resources in the United States alone, estimated at over 55 trillion metric tons, would be sufficient to meet the entire world's demand for over 100,000 years even at use rates higher than today's current world consumption of over 200 million metric tons per year.
Sodium chloride (salt) is one of the largest-volume inorganic raw materials used by the chemical industry. The major chemical products of salt—chlorine and caustic soda—are in turn used in the manufacture of many chemical products, both inorganic and organic. Salt is also used directly for snow and ice control, as a mineral in animal diets, as a food preservative and flavoring agent, as a reagent for water softening and in many industrial processes.
Rapid industrialization in China has led the growth in global salt production, in particular in the Chinese chemical industry. During 2003–2008, global production of salt increased nearly 12% annually. Also Australia has made up for some production shortfall in Asia and increased its production at 4.5% annually during 2003–2008.
The following pie chart shows world production of sodium chloride:
China National Salt is the world's largest salt producer with an annual production capacity of close to 19.0 million metric tons. The second-largest producer is the German K+S with more than 18.0 million metric tons, and production sites in Europe and South America. The three next-largest producers are U.S.-based Morton Salt, Compass Minerals, and Cargill.