Ontario faces salt shortage as winter nears, here's why

31 Oct 2018 1:32 PM | Smart About Salt (Administrator)


Friday, October 26, 2018, 3:17 PM - There is nothing sweet about this salty story. Ontario is in a scramble when it comes to salt supply this season.

Multiple factors have contributed to the shortage, including the spring ice storm in April that dramatically lowered a solid supply leftover from last winter. The Town of Goderich, which is home to the world’s largest road salt mine, experienced a 12-week strike in the summer, resulting in 40 per cent less harvest. In addition, just south of the border the Cargill salt mine in Cleveland, Ohio, has depleted reserves due to a leak that disrupted their ability to extract salt.

The good news is municipalities have first access to the current reserves. The Weather Network contacted many winter operation departments across southern Ontario, and all have responded with a positive outcome. This salt shortage will not have an impact on road operations.

Eric Holmes with the City of Toronto told The Weather Network that the city has 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes readily available for this winter.

While the Don Valley Parkway may turn into a parking lot, it won't become a skating rink this winter. 


Landscapers, contractors and any privatized service that clears ice and snow, may be impacted.

Many of these companies have been forced to outsource their salt from Egypt.

"The boat is on its way," David Lammers, president of Garden Grove said. "It has taken a ton of organization and logistics, but we planned ahead and now we have options."

This was the most cost-effective method for gathering salt in the private world this season. However, companies who buy salt in bulk can expect prices to rise as much as 60 per cent this season.

On the contrary, buying just a single bag is not expected to hurt your wallet anymore than it has in previous winters. This type of salt goes through a different process and supply chain. Therefore, the prices are not expected to increase.

Snowplow dump truck spreading road salt -- Getty Images

With a scarce supply confirmed for the private sector this could be the time to rethink how we use salt. Lammers told The Weather Network how his company, Garden Grove, is doing so:

Treated Salt: adding Magnesium to our salt increases the melting ability at lower temperatures. It also provides a residual lasting effect for the surface during the snow event.

Liquid technology: applying a salt brine blend to surfaces, which is called anti-icing and pretreatment. 

Better salting equipment: salt use should be calibrated. Garden Grove calculates the output and does not apply more salt than they need to, which reduces unnecessary usage/eliminates waste.

Better plowing equipment: Adding plows and pushers for loaders and tractors that have advanced scraping ability for better clean up. Leaving less residual snow and hard pack, which reduces the amount of salt needed to help clean surfaces. Better plowing/cleaner plowing equals less salting.


As Ontario scrambles to make better use of the supply, where does the rest of Canada sit?

The Maritimes and Quebec have enough supply, and out west the mine in Saskatchewan is doing fine. The dwindling supply of salt is just a story for Ontario and surrounding states. 

So why can't the rest of Canada just share the wealth?

Saskatchewan is an expensive alternative due to the cost of running the salt by rail car. It needs to land, be emptied at the rail yard, and moved to storage. The costs to perform this become prohibitive. 

So, when it comes to money, it looks like Egypt is more cost-efficient. Shipment from Chile and Morocco are also occurring. These international buys usually include storage at ports in the winter, making the deal a little more appealing. 

This year a perfect storm has hit. The availability of bulk salt has already been an issue for years. The previous winter/spring and current issues at the mines have brought us to this point. And the ripple effect is expected to be felt for years to come. 

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