Salt miners have reason to love long, harsh winter

CLEVELAND -- While there's been no shortage of reasons to curse the weather over the last few months, 1,800 feet below ground in Cleveland, Ohio, a small group of 100 or so has been praising it.

"This has been a great winter -- you can't top this one," says David Diaz, a mechanic at the Cargill salt mine.

P.J. King CBS News
He may be one of the few people in America who has loved this winter.

"Yeah, there ain't too many out there," he says.

Maintenance supervisor P.J. King agrees.

"It's a good thing, you know, we always say, 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,'" he says.

With demand for road salt spiking in the 12 states and two Canadian provinces it supplies, the Cleveland mine is running three shifts a day, seven days a week, to keep the salt spreaders filled. They drill, blast, load, haul, dump and process 16,000 tons of salt a day.

The salt mine is located miles under Lake Erie. CBS News
Mine manager Steve Horne has been in the business 25 years and has never seen demand like this.

"We haven't been hand-to-mouth quite yet but have seen our inventories deplenish rapidly," he says.

In the salt mine, directly under Lake Erie, the men are replenishing those stockpiles -- and their bank accounts -- even if they're working overtime to do it.

Miners are working overtime to replenish salt stockpiles. CBS News
King says a little more money in his pocket is a good thing, and that a bad winter above ground does not mean a bad winter below ground.

You know it's not a normal winter when "another day in the salt mines" is actually a thought to savor.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.