GROVELAND — Many of us might be complaining about the weather this year, but for one of Livingston County’s largest employers it’s been a godsend.
American Rock Salt has had to deal with a stretch of light winters, but thanks to the amount of snow this year, they have added nearly 40 jobs through the holidays to keep up with the high demand for rock salt.
“Right now, we have more salt then anyone in the industry,” said Joe Bucci, Co-CEO and Vice Chairman of American Rock Salt. “We have about 340 people working, and some of them are getting paid time and a half. We’re happy for the guys to have some money in their pockets.”
According to Bucci, at this time last year they were forced to lay people off, but this season is a totally different story.
Bucci—along with Gunther Buerman, Neil Cohen and other investors—founded American Rock Salt in 1997. The former owner, AkzoNobel, conducted some initial work on a potential new mine, but ceased their efforts after their previous mine collapsed. Bucci and his team swept in and are running the premier salt mine of North America.
The current mine is one-fifth the size of the previous one in the region, which was run by AkzoNobel. According to Joe Bucci Jr., American Rock Salt’s Environmental Manager, the mine is capable of producing up to 20,000 tons of salt a day and is the largest producing salt mine in the United States.
The mine goes down approximately 1,270 feet to get to the salt bed. As you descend into the mine, you are actually descending into time—420 million years ago into the Silurian Period of the Paleozoic era, before dinosaurs roamed the earth. All equipment is disassembled and transported down an elevator shaft prior to reassembly and use in the mine. The salt is crushed, screened and transported up an additional shaft in 20-ton loads on a high-speed elevator that travels at high speeds, up to 30 mph. The mine is a spectacular display of technology and a dedicated workforce. Mining tools and equipment are powered either electrically or by biodiesel fuel.
“We love mining, it’s in our blood,” said Bucci Jr. “No one mines salt like we do. We have the best salt miners in the world.”