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EXCLUSIVE PFM gets peek into DeepStore's health & safety operation

02 February 2015

In an exclusive case study to be published in the April edition, PFM gets an underground tour of Winsford Rock Salt Mine, Britain's oldest working mine. Used to store government archives, and medical and police records, the mine's health & safety is overseen by James Noblett.

Touring the underground Winsford Rock Salt Mine, Britain's oldest working mine which lies almost 200m under the Cheshire countryside, is like taking a moonwalk. It’s surreal and undeniably eerie but so fascinating you’ll feel as though you’re exploring a different planet.

But the mine isn't just a geological curiosity – it’s an important storage area which is used to store documentation such as evidential material for police authorities and patient records for local hospitals. The mine’s biggest customer is the National Archives.

Compass Minerals, which operates the mine, is part of the Compass Group; DeepStore is the document storage part of the business. “We store the country’s treasures underground,” says James Noblett, environment health & safety manager for Compass Minerals UK. “We store for several architects, not just architectural paperwork but models too. We’ll store anything for any customer because we have the ability and the space.”

DeepStore, James explains, revolves around carefully handling boxes and being custodians of customer archives; the salt business, on the other hand, is about using large pieces of kit to safely mine 1 million tonnes of salt every year. . What this means is that Compass Minerals is a ‘two part’ business in the sense that it makes money from the salt but also from the underground storage area created by moving the salt.

“The good thing about the business is that although it’s dependent on the weather, If we have a really good winter – meaning it’s cold – we do more business because we’ll sell plenty of salt for de-icing. If it’s a warm winter we don’t sell as much salt but can rely on the DeepStore business to maintain our profitability.”

Specially designed machines cut the salt into large pieces. It’s crushed, anti-caking agent is added, and it’s then ready to go to customers. The small pieces of salt are then sold mainly to local authorities. “We’ll also sell to local gritting companies and small companies that want to bag it. But our main customers are the highway agencies.”


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