Historic Sites of Manitoba: Neepawa Salt Works (Mountain Avenue, Neepawa)
The western portion of Manitoba is underlain by vast salt deposits created through evaporation of an inland sea that covered this area millions of years ago. Interest in exploiting these deposits commercially began when, in 1913, a government crew that was drilling for oil near Neepawa hit saltwater instead. In 1924, the Neepawa Salt Company was incorporated but the plant did not become operational until August 1932.
At first, the company produced 35 tons of salt per day, using water pumped from two deep wells evaporated in a vacuum apparatus. In 1935, it became a subsidiary of Canadian Industries Limited (CIL) and it produced coarse salt used primarily by farmers and the meat-packing industry. A wholly new plant was built in 1940, about a half-mile from the original site, to meet the growing demand for high-quality salt. It consisted of two main buildings, enclosing 25,000 square feet of floor space and constructed at a cost of about $350,000 by Carter-Halls-Aldinger, and evaporation pans built by the Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works, both of Winnipeg.
By 1942, with a staff of 30 to 40 men, the works reached full production of 100 tons daily of coarse salt, fine table and dairy salt, and compressed salt blocks for livestock. Four vacuum pans 48 feet high and nine feet wide were used to “cook” salt 24 hours a day. It was believed to be the only salt works in North America that produced salt from natural brine, as opposed to most plants where water was pumped into the ground to dissolve rock salt and bring it to the surface. At its height, the facility produced about 22,500 tons of salt annually.
In 1951, the works were sold to a new company, Canadian Salt Limited (CSL), based at Montreal, Quebec. The opening of a potash mine near Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan in 1969 resulted in the economical production of salt as a byproduct. This led CSL to close the Neepawa plant in January 1970. Some of the complex was demolished or moved away but a part of it, deemed to be sufficiently solid, was incorporated into a community hall and sports arena built as a Manitoba centennial project. It remains in place today.
“Neepawa salt works sale is advanced,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 September 1934, page 12.
“Developing Neepawa Salt Works,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 January 1935, page 16.
“Report submitted on Neepawa Salt, Ltd.,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 February 1936, page 12.
“Neepawa gets salt-making plant,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 July 1940, page 7.
“Neepawa hears salt plant whistle for last time,” Brandon Sun, 19 January 1970, page 12.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 11 May 2023