The Khewra Salt Mine is also known as Mayo Salt Mine, in honour of Lord Mayo, who visited it as Viceroy of India. The mine is a part of a salt rangethat originated about 800 million years ago, when evaporation of a shallow sea followed by geological movement formed a salt range that stretched for about 300 kilometers (185 miles). The salt reserves at Khewra were discovered when Alexander the Great crossed the Jhelum and Mianwali region during hisIndian campaign. The mine was discovered, however, not by Alexander, nor by his allies, but by his army’s horses, when they were found licking the stones.Ailing horses of his army also recovered after licking the rock salt stones.During the Mughal era the salt was traded in various markets, as far away as Central Asia. On the downfall of the Mughal empire, the mine was taken over by Sikhs. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Sikh Commander-in-Chief, shared the management of theSalt Range with Gulab Singh, the Raja of Jammu. The former controlled the Warcha mine, while the latter held Khewra. The salt quarried during Sikh rule was both eaten and used as a source of revenue. In 1872, some time after they had taken over the Sikhs’ territory, the British developed the mine further. They found the mining to have been inefficient, with irregular and narrow tunnels and entrances that made the movement of labourers difficult and dangerous. The supply of water inside the mine was poor, and there was no storage facility for the mined salt. The only road to the mine was over difficult, rocky terrain. To address these problems the government levelled the road, built warehouses, provided a water supply, improved the entrances and tunnels, and introduced a better mechanism for excavation of salt. Penalties were introduced to control salt smuggling. While working with Geological Survey of India in the 1930s and 1940s, Birbal Sahnifound evidence of angiosperms, gymnosperms and insects from the Cambrian period inside the mine.
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