Stone Canyon's Control Over Salt Production

in the Americas

In April 2021, when Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. purchased K+S Americas Salt division it took control of significant rock salt deposits, mines and facilities in South America and the Caribbean in addition to those in the U.S. and Canada. Its acquisition included operations in Chile, Peru and the Bahamas. In June 2023, it added another one in Brazil.


Stone Canyon owns the second-largest solar salt operation in North America outside Matthew Town on the island of Great Inagua, Bahamas, known as Morton Bahamas. Inagua is the most southerly and third largest island of the Bahamas, in close proximity to both Cuba and Haiti. The above-ground facility harvests sea salt using sun and wind evaporation from 80 salt ponds and is the island's main employer. It processes around a million tonnes of salt annually for different purposes, including road salt, with the U.S. being its main export market. It also exports salt to Canada and a number of other countries.

As early as the 1600s, salt was being produced and shipped to Spanish colonies from Inagua and its extraction was a going business by 1803. By 1918, after the end of World War I, lower salt prices and competition had driven the small producers on Great Inagua out of business, and the salt works were abandoned except for incidental local use. In 1935, the Erickson brothers from the U.S. founded West India Chemicals Ltd., purchasing the abandoned salt works from the British government. The operation has been Inagua's main industry since that time. Morton Salt bought the facility in 1954.

In July 2021, 3 months after taking over ownership of Morton Salt, Stone Canyon terminated 24 senior employees from the Bahamas operation, reducing employment by more then 20 per cent. In a statement, Morton Salt said: "We can confirm Morton Salt made the difficult decision to reduce staff at its salt production facility located in Inagua, Bahamas. This was not a decision we took lightly, but after a comprehensive evaluation of our facility's recent operating efficiency and production levels, the staff reduction was necessary to sustain the long-term viability (emphasis added) of our Inagua facility, where we have operated since 1954."

In an interview with Nassau-based television program Eyewitness News, Trade Union Congress President Obie Ferguson said the terminations included 17 line staff and seven supervisors, with at least six of them having worked with the company for over 35 years, and some workers having been employed up to 46 years. At that time Ferguson raised the fact that the company was refusing to follow the contract with the workers which entitled them to redundancy pay of up to 40 weeks. He informed that Morton Salt said it would pay up to two weeks per year, up to a maximum of 26 weeks, for the workers it had terminated, in contempt of the contract. Further, Morton Salt had not even notified the union of the layoffs.

"It is criminal for a major multinational corporation to have entered into an agreement with the union, supervised to a great extent and shared by the minister, encouraged by the minister to reach the agreement and now to completely disregard what has been agreed to between the parties," Ferguson said. "That is the reason why I said, as president of the Trade Union Congress, we are regressing as a people, as workers."

The layoffs by Stone Canyon followed layoffs of 11 workers previously by K+S in January 2021, also said to be done in order to sustain the "long-term viability" of the operation. At that time K+S had already signed a contract with Stone Canyon for the sale of the business.

In September 2021, Jennifer Brown, president of the Bahamas Industrial, Manufacturers & Allied Workers Union (BIMAWU), told the Bahamian newspaper The Tribune that the operation was now severely short staffed and that the company would likely have to hire new employees to keep running. "Because this new company took over, they just wanted to reduce the staff to see how many people they really needed. I believe they might have to rehire a lot of people. This is just from my general observation, because we used to have over 200 employees, but now we don't even have 80, yet they expect the work to get done," Brown said.

"It is near impossible to do the same level of work with less than half of the staff that Morton Salt was used to in the recent past, which is only part of the problem. The thing is that the workers are not being compensated for the heavier workload. Every department they let someone go and people have positions they need filled. So we are just going to basic and important stuff now, and the rest just lags behind and when you get to it, you get to it," she said. Brown also said workers were "walking on eggshells" as a result of the last layoffs. However, she added that maintenance on machinery is now lacking. "Things we never used to do before, they are asking employees to do it now, and they feel unsafe."

Chile and Peru

Competition between Stone Canyon and Compass is on the horizon in Chile as well. In its 2022 annual report, Compass Minerals stated: "In 2012, we acquired mining rights to approximately 100 million tons of salt resources in the Chilean Atacama Desert. This resource estimate is based upon an initial assessment. A feasibility study would be completed before we decide whether to proceed with the development of this project to ensure the salt resources can be converted into reserves. The development of this project will require significant infrastructure to establish extraction and logistics capabilities." Compass touted its Chilean acquisition as one of the highest-quality salt resources it had located, and that it "secures our access to one of the lowest-cost mining regions in the Western Hemisphere."

In the northern Chilean province of Iquique, Stone Canyon owns a big open pit salt mine in the 45-km long, 4 to 5-km wide Salar Grande salt flat in the Tarapacá region of the Atacama Desert. The Tarapacá mine sits 30 km from two Pacific ports, Patillo I and II, that can accommodate ships carrying up to 100,000 tons. The mine and operations linked to it continue to go by their original name, Sociedad Punta de Lobos S.A. (SPL). Most of SPL's salt products are marketed under the Lobos brand.

SPL salt was founded in 1905. It was purchased by Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc. from the German mining monopoly K+S in 2021 when it bought its Americas division.

The Tarapacá mine is shallow, with salt found at a depth of about 100 metres. The salt extracted is of a very high quality of sodium chloride, in the range of 99 per cent pure, meaning it does not require extra processing to remove impurities. The arid climate means salt that is exposed once extracted is not lost to dissolution from rain. All of these factors along with the exploitation of Chilean miners contribute to Chile being considered a desirable source of salt by the monopolies because of the relatively low cost of production. The reserves are said to be immense and some claim they could last for another 5,000 years.

Road de-icing salt from Tarapacá is mostly shipped to the East coast of the United States A smaller quantity of salt is processed at the nearby port into table salt for markets in Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Stone Canyon also owns and operates SPL Peru, which serves as a packaging and distribution centre for Lobos Salt at Peru's main commercial seaport, Callao. In total, Stone Canyon has 6 distribution centres on the Pacific coast of South America, five of them in Chile, and one on the Atlantic in northern Brazil.

A December 2022 report carried by the Chilean online news site Emol provided information regarding salt exports from Chile, saying that its exports have been growing recently. Between January and October 2022 exports amounted to over U.S.$148 million, a 23.2 per cent increase over the same period in 2021. U.S. destinations accounted for 56.9 per cent of those exports, an increase of 12 per cent over the year before. The main product exported to the U.S. is road salt. According to private company reports accessed by the news agency, in 2020 Chile exported 6,428,414 tons of salt, with K+S (before Stone Canyon took over) accounting for the lion's share -- 73 per cent of the market.[1]

Shipments in 2022 over the same months were mostly by Stone Canyon's SPL and went to Baltimore (1,820,051 tons); Newark (596,038 tons); Boston (351,699 tons); and New Orleans (233,183 tons). Windsor Salt workers in Pugwash, Nova Scotia also report that in the past salt from operations in Chile has been shipped to Canada and mixed with their salt, that is of a lower grade, so it can be sold at a higher grade.


In June 2023, through its subsidiary SPL Salt Chile, Stone Canyon acquired the Brazilian Salinas de Diamante Branco (SDB) salt operation in Galinhos in the state of Rio Grande do Norte. The operation has a port adjacent to it. SDB's website says it is one of the main salt producers in Brazil with the capacity to produce around 700,000 tonnes of salt annually. The salt is obtained through evaporation from a seaside salt flat then refined to produce different grades of salt. It sells to both the domestic and export market, shipping salt for industrial, consumer, agricultural and road de-icing to other countries in South America, to the Eastern U.S., as well as locations in Europe and Africa.

This article was published in
Number 39 - July 24, 2023

Article Link:


Website:   Email: