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Origin of the Carrickfergus salt deposits, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Today’s feedback is from John C. of Northern Ireland, who read a newspaper article about the Carrickfergus salt mine, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. He said,

I would love to know your perspective on this mine as I used to go there every winter to get lumps of salt to use as cattle licks.
John C.
Northern Ireland
Pink rock salt

CMI’s replies:

Hi John,

The article you sent1 about the salt mine near Carrickfergus, County Antrim, says some 500,000 tonnes of salt is mined each year, mostly to grit the roads for safety during winter. Although the mine has been working since 1965, the deposit is so large that it can continue for at least another 25 years. The mine works up to 400 m below the surface and the salt has a total thickness of 40 m, with individual salt beds up to 27 m.2 At Larne, 15 km north, the main salt deposit is almost 500 m thick. Salt deposits like these are also found in central England and further afield across much of Europe.3

The salt is found in rocks that have been assigned to the Triassic system, which long-age geologists say is 220 million years old, which is what your newspaper article repeated. However, from the preliminary conversion chart in figure 1 we can see that these deposits would have formed about 4,500 years ago, as the waters of Noah’s Flood, were rising. That would have been about four or five months into the Flood before the water reached its peak.

Long-age geologists speculate that these vast salt deposits formed in a land-locked sea that evaporated over millions of years, leaving the salt. Once again, newspaper articles like the one you sent repeat this speculation as if it is a fact. People do not realize that no one saw this happen and so it is just an invention. The idea of a land-locked sea is the only way that long-age geologists can think of forming such great quantities of salt, even though their philosophy is that we must use geological processes that we can observe today to explain the past. We don’t see such vast salt deposits forming in such environments on the earth today.

Figure 1. A preliminary conversion chart to translate the standard geological systems and dates into a biblical geologic framework. On the chart the geological subdivisions are shown with their regular evolutionary times assigned (note that the time lengths are not to scale). To the right of this column vertical arrows indicate where these divisions sit within the biblical Flood and post-Flood time scale.

The idea that the salt was produced from the evaporation of seawater has huge problems. First, the amount of seawater that needs to be evaporated to produce so much salt would be the equivalent of kilometres of depth of ocean. Second the geologic setting would need to be incredibly precise. Namely, the water would need to be not too deep, not too shallow, covering a huge stable area, with the whole area gradually deepening at just the correct rate all over millions of years. Further, if enormous evaporation areas had been exposed to solar evaporation for such a long time, the salt precipitated would be contaminated with mud and wind-blown sand, dust, and organic debris. Yet, although the salt contains some grit and has a pink tinge, it is quite clean. It would not be so unsullied if it had been exposed to the weather for millions of years. For these reasons, the evaporation model does not work.

When we consider the biblical interpretive framework there is one further issue why an evaporation model would not work—there would not be enough time in the biblical scenario to evaporate the necessary volume of water.

One scenario for the formation of the salt deposits involves the action of volcanic and magmatic eruptions during Noah’s Flood.4 Interaction between the sediment, hot magma, and water would dissolve salt, creating brine solutions. Salt solutions could also be produced directly from salt-rich fluids emanating from within magma itself. Subsequently, in suitably large basins, interaction of these solutions with cooler floodwater would result in the precipitation of the salt, by such effects as changes in temperature, pressure, Eh, and pH, and chemical reactions between different solutions.

Another scenario for the origin of the salt is that it was emplaced as an igneous deposit, similar to deposits of basalt and rhyolite. The catastrophic tectonic movements of the crust of the earth during Noah’s Flood would have unleashed enormous energy, melting rocks and forming magma.5 This volcanic material is often incorporated within the sedimentary strata in the geologic column as they are deposited. Salt is a mineral that can also melt to form a magma, and this would have moved in a similar way through the earth’s crust because of tectonic movements and formed salt deposits as other sediments were being deposited. For more information on how salt deposits can be formed from magma see A magmatic model for the origin of large salt formations. The map in figure 1 of this article shows the salt deposits in Northern Ireland and how they are related to deposits in England and Europe. We would need to examine more detailed descriptions of the salt deposit itself to help distinguish between the models.

I trust that helps you appreciate how the salt deposits mined at Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland formed during Noah’s Flood.

All the best,

Dr Tasman Walker
Scientist, Writer, Speaker
Creation Ministries International (Australia)

Published: 2 March 2019

References and notes

  1. Girvin, S., Pure Grit: The Carrickfergus mine from the Triassic period, BBC News NI, 26 December 2016, bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-38330182. Return to text.
  2. Wilson, H.E., Regional Geology of Northern Ireland, Geological Survey of NI, Belfast, 1972. Return to text.
  3. Physical geography—How salt has shaped our landscape, Salt Association, saltassociation.co.uk; accessed 18 December 2018. Return to text.
  4. Williams, E.L., Origin of bedded salt deposits (Nutting), CRSQ 26(1):15–16, 1989; Nutting, D.I., Origin of bedded salt deposits: a critique of evaporative models and defense of a hydrothermal model, Master of Science Thesis, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1984. Return to text.
  5. Magma is hot molten rock, fluid or semi-fluid, below or within the earth's crust. Molten rock that flows on the earth’s surface is called lava. Magma can accumulate under the earth and solidify there without emerging above the surface. Salt can melt and form a magma. After it solidifies salt can be squeezed like toothpaste through the surrounding soft rocks forming salt domes called diapirs. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

How Noah's Flood Shaped Our Earth
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $17.00
Soft cover