Snowy winter leaves salt stocks low

Local authorities all over Switzerland are having to be careful with their salt stocks as the unusual amount of snow this year requires frequent de-icing of roads.

This content was published on December 27, 2010 minutes and agencies

In most places it is only the main roads that are being kept ice-free by use of salt; gravel is being used on local roads and pavements – if they are cleared at all.

The canton Zurich authorities have limited the amount of salt that they are delivering to the communes, while the city plans to use only snow-ploughs on the pavements and minor streets.

An official for canton Bern’s civil engineering office told the Swiss news agency on Monday that cantonal stocks were half full, and should be sufficient if the weather was “more or less normal”. The city of Bern says it is using grit for its neighbourhood streets, and has enough salt to keep its main roads clear.

The central cantons of Schwyz and Zug fear they may run out of salt.

The city of Lucerne has been given special permission to import sea salt from southern Italy. Salt is a state monopoly in Switzerland: normally all cantons have to buy their stocks from the United Swiss Salt Works near Basel, apart from canton Vaud, which buys it from the salt mine in Bex on its own territory.

Since most of Europe has been experiencing similar conditions, there is competition for the available salt. Although the United Swiss Salt Works have ordered more than 20,000 tonnes from various sources, its marketing director said last week that the partners might not be able to meet their agreements, or might sell to the highest bidder.

The salt mines in Bex are running out of reserve stocks, and are working non-stop to replace them. Given the strong demand in France, it is hard to order extra salt from there, its sales director said.

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