Monte Kali, Germany’s Salt Mountain

Monte Kali, Herringen

photography by: SUNFLECKR/ Wikimedia Commons

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In an ever-developing world, the increasing amounts of waste produced by humanity are translated to ginormous land formations that rival their natural counterparts. Towering over the verdant fields of Herringen, Germany, Mount Kali is an artificial salt mountain, formed as a byproduct by the region’s ample mining industry. Revered by some as a spectacular landmark while scorned by others as hazardous, the salty dune recently became a quirky tourist attraction that draws visitors from all over the country.

For decades now, the rural plains of eastern Hesse in Germany have been a global hub of potash mining, a coveted mineral widely used as a potent fertilizer. While potash is an indispensable part of modern agriculture, its mining and processing generate large quantities of byproducts, the bulk of which is sodium chloride, better known as table salt. In fact, for each ton of potash, multiple amounts of salt are produced as a waste.


Jutting out of the farmlands around the townlet of Herringen, Monte Kali is a spoil heap, comprised entirely of salt. This oddly-looking mountain was first formed in 1976, when the K+S chemical company began dumping loads of salt at the site, slowly but steadily creating a massive hilly formation. With the incessant supply of sodium chloride, Mount Kali reached a height of a whopping 250 meters in 2016, encompassing nearly 100 hectares of land.


Some estimates put the mountain’s total weight at more than 230 million tons (equivalent to 460 Burj Khalifas), with 900 tons of salt added every hour, amounting to 7.2 million tons annually. Due to its eye-catching presence, the hill has gained a series of monikers, including “Kalimanjaro” (a portmanteau of Kali and Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak).


In recent years, the place has evolved into an unofficial tourist attraction, where thousands of intrepid climbers make their way up through the salty slopes. As access to the site is restricted, visiting the mountain is possible by appointment only (available at K+S official site).


As one might expect, such a hefty mass of salt in proximity of forests is not without its challenges. Since the monte grew to its current size, it took a heavy environmental toll on its surroundings. In fact, the nearby Werra River as well as the area’s groundwater became completely salty, causing the extinction of most invertebrate species around the mountain.


Whether Monte Kali is a harmful eyesore, exceptional monument or a little of both is up for you to determine, either way, the place is a sober reminder of the constant conflict between the much-wanted economic growth and its unintended consequences.