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7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

DOI: 10.7251/BMC170702013D

CONTEMPORARY SALT KARST

Nеđo ĐURIĆ1, Dijana ĐURIĆ2


1
Technical institute Bijeljina, Republic of Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, nedjo@tehnicki-institut.com
2
Faculty of Civil engineering Subotica, University of Novi Sad, Serbia

ABSTRACT

Waters in contact with salt rocks do their dissolute to the extent where it can come to a complete
disappearance of salt rock layers. Movement of underground waters can be natural or directed by
human for the purpose of exploitation of salt water. Natural process take place gradually through
geological history, so occurrences that happened due to such process do not have greater significance
on terrain surface nor are noticeable. At artificial directing of underground waters movement occur
phenomena with significant consequences on terrain surface.
Dissolution of salt rocks creates new geological environment, that depending from accompanying
rocks can be cracked or karst, mostly cracked karst. There are no significant data in literature about
existence of karst in salt rocks, although many authors say that with dissolution of salt rocks occur the
creation of larger cavities, ie empty spaces. Process research of terrain subsidence due to salt water
exploitation on deposits of rock salt in Tuzla, defined zones of salt rocks dissolution during natural
movement of underground waters that differs from artificial directing of underground waters. Duration
of one or more periods characterizes development of karst process. First is called old (ancient) salt
karst, and the second contemporary salt karst.
Development of karst process was different depending from the aggressiveness of underground
waters, smaller during their natural movement, and significantly larger after their directing. Size of
created empty spaces as a result of rock mass deficit due to dissolution of salt rocks is determined
from specially constructed diagram for those purposes.

Key words: salt karst, salt, cracked and karst zone, diagram

1. INTRODUCTION

Salt exploitation from salt deposits is familiar throughout the history of human civilization
evolution, but there are no enough records about the way and consequences of such
exploitation. Fact is that those were smaller amounts of salt waters taken from sources or
excavated wells that had no unwanted effects on immediate environment. Such exploitation
was slightly different from natural process of exploitation that took place due to movement of
fresh waters next to salty rocks.
Period of Middle Ages is characterized with more intensive pumping regime of salt waters,
whereby is disrupted their natural movement regime, but not to the extent that it created

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7th BALKANMINE CONGRESS – Proceedings, Prijedor 2017

certain consequences on the terrain. With industrial development in the World begins more
intensive exploitation of salt waters, to the extent that disrupt their regime, and in time leaves
consequences on terrain surface. Such exploitation was conducted mostly in rural parts, and
its effects from the aspect of surface terrain endangerment were not in particular analyzed. In
the fifties of the XX century in World began controlled exploitation of brine by forming
certain chambers in salt rocks, without appearance of impact on terrain surface. However in
one city area of city Tuzla was continued pumping of underground waters as before, with
increased capacity, whereby the consequences on terrain surface were manifested with terrain
subsidence over 10 m and with destroying of several thousands of construction objects of
different sizes and purposes [1,2,3,4,5].
Processes that happened in the zone of movement of underground waters next to salt waters
changed the natural state of the environment where it was formed a new environment called
cracked – karst. Zone quickly changes in the function of human time, where underground
water aggressively attacks salt rocks, dissolute them and waters become brines, and marl
rocks that are interlayers of salt stay in place and form a karst zone. In hinterland, or on place
where the process of dissolution of salt rocks is finished, gradually consolidation of newly
created geological environment that can be called after karst zone, takes place.

2. NATURAL SALT KARST SHAPED DURING TIME

Existence of salt karst in nature was disputed for a long time, since there were no significant
literature data. In second half of the XX century Russian authors wrote about it, but it was not
enough to attract wider audience of world expert public. There are no particular literature nor
published articles, but can be found some documents that show that at that time something
was written. Even can be found some photos that are similar to those that follow karst terrains
in carbonate rocks, figure 1.

Figure 1. Karst shapes in rock salt

Salt deposits follow underground waters from their origin [6,7,8], whether they are in salt
rocks as old elisione waters or move at rim, dissolving them gradually during geological
history. Aggressiveness of underground waters that are in contact with salt rocks on rim parts
is different, depending from the speed of water movement and their saturation [9,10,11].
Those are in general concentrations from several mg/l, rarely dozens of mg/l.

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Movement of underground waters and ruination of salt rocks lead to development of salt karst
[1,7,12,13,14]. Depending from environment conditions where processes took place, salt karst
can be clearly expressed as on figure 1, or less as on figure 2. In natural conditions process
takes place progressively, that is dissolving ability decreases with increased concentration of
salt.
In near surface part water has less mineralization, and movement is faster so it has better
dissolving ability. Formed are certain crack systems that are new directions of underground
water movement. It still moves through crack systems and empties through sources that are
called salt sources. Greater dissolvent of salt rocks creates empty spaces, that are during time
increased till the limits when roof salt rocks do not have a stable backing, whereby occur
collapsing of rocks or sudden bursting (cracking) [3,7,15]. On certain parts of the terrain
depending from the size of empty spaces and depth on which they appear, can occur
consequences like subsidence of terrain surface.
Terrain subsidence is in forms of funnel or well dents that in certain periods of year are
accumulations for temporary surface waters. If collapsing of sediments or sudden bursting of
certain parts of the terrain, and sometimes even movement of blocks is more intense, cracks
by vertical till the depth of empty spaces zone are formed. Surface water is directly infiltrated
in salt rocks and increases intensity of their dissolution, and with that also accelerates the
development of salt karst.
Conditions for development of salt karst are dissolubility and water permeability of rocks, and
dynamic movement of underground waters. At salt deposits that have high plasticity, or no
cracks, dissolubility is smaller. If water do not get in contact with salt rocks, or is closed
within salt rocks and there are no movements, there are no conditions for natural development
of salt karst.
Contact of waters at rims, roof and subsoil part of salt rocks leads to their faster dissolubility,
and marl interlayers stay the skeleton of newly formed karst zone, figure 2. With larger
dissolution of salt rocks occur larger empty spaces, or cavities that stay like that till they can
no longer be a stable backing for roof sediments. The same one collapse and gradually
consolidate forming in that way the new geological environment, slightly changed from
autochthonous, that can be called after karst zone.

Figure 2. Karst shapes in rock salt after flooding of pit of Salt mine "Tušanj", Tuzla
(Foto: Zabuš S. 1979)

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Dissolution of salt rocks due to movement of slightly mineralized underground waters


represents the process of karstification, and phenomena that occur in that process are included
with term salt karst [16]. Occurrences that appear during forming of salt karst have affect on
change of lithological characteristics of sediments, structural-tectonic, hydro geological,
hydrodynamic and other characteristics of roof salt rocks.

3. CONTEMPORARY SALT KARST AS A RESULT OF HUMAN IMPACT

Change of regime of underground water movement due to their pumping, increases the
dissolubility of salt rocks. Process is uncontrolled and different water movement directions
dictated by the pumping intensity and characteristics of salt rocks are formed [1,7]. Presence
of cracks and different cavities of karst shape increases, which leads to change of existing
geological environment and creation of a new one that represents karst zone. In time karst
spaces are filled with collapsed material and consolidated till the boundary of water
impermeable rocks. Areas that include cracks and karst zone are called an aggressive zone of
karst, and consolidated areas are analog to areas at natural consolidation and are called after
karst zone.
The most important human impact on creating of contemporary salt karst is related to deposit
of rock salt in Tuzla. Century-old exploitation of brine from salt deposit with deep wells from
terrain surface on very small area created different karst cavities by size and shape, on depth
greater than 250 m [9]. Such zone is called cavity – karst zone [17], that during exploitation
changed its boundaries horizontally and in vertical direction.
Greater aggressiveness of slightly mineralized underground waters on salt rocks accelerates
the process of karstification, and in hinterland where dissolution of salt rocks is already
finished occurs process of consolidation [4,7,18,19,20]. In that way is finished circular
process of salt rock dissolution, creating of cracked and karst porosity, ie an aggressive zone
of karst and at the end consolidation of area where occurred deficit of rock mass due to
dissolution of salt rocks, figure 3. Termination of human impact on regime of underground
waters and way of exploitation od salt water, establishes gradually approximate natural
balance state. Cracked – karst zones are consolidated also during time, gradually going from
an aggressive zone of karst into after karst zone.

Figure 3. Schematic view of circular process of dissolving salt rocks and consolidation free spaces
1. beginning of dissolution, 2. termination od dissolution, 2'. begining of consolidation, 1'. termination of
consolidation
(Đurić N. 1987, supplemented by 2017)

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Detail geological research and analysis of borehole core can define state of aggressive zones
of karst and after karst zones. In that way are allocated zones on deposit of rock salt in Tuzla,
where are clearly separated after karst zones from aggressive zone of karsta created in period
of pumping of brine in deep wells, figure 4. In time spatial position of aggressive zones of
karst changes, slightly higher by vertical because of subsidence of roof part of rock massif.
Time of occurrence of salt karst can be determined with stratigraphic comparison of
an aggressive zone of karst rocks with rocks that are deformed under the influence of karst.
Salt karst on rock salt deposit in Tuzla is very hard to define from aspect of its occurrence, but
we relate it to the beginning of occurrence of salt sources on terrain surface [16].
Geomorphological analysis of relief of surrounding terrain showed that morphological
development started 500 000 years ago. For that period is related the occurrence of salt
sources, and with that the activity of karst process.

Figure 4. Terrain profile on salt deposit in Tuzla


1. salt rock, 2. supporting rocks, 3. aggressive zone of karsta, 4. after karst zone
(Đurić N. 1987, supplemented by 2017)

Total activity of karst process is determined from relation of volume of dissolved salts that
goes with the water and volume of an aggressive zone of karst massif for certain time.
According to researches of N. Đurića in 1987 total activity of contemporary karst process on
rock salt deposit in Tuzla, in previous period in average is 78% [16]. This size refers to
complete dissolution of salt rocks within salt deposit. In previous period of natural and
artificial directing of underground water movement, indicator of contemporary activity of
karst process was changing. In period of natural movement of underground water, salt
dissolution was gradual and complete, while at artificial uncontrolled directing of
underground waters, dissolution of salt rocks was uneven.

With termination of artificial directing of underground water movement and exploitation of


brine, on salt deposit is established natural regime of underground waters in new conditions.
Water movement towards salt rocks is more even and slower, dissolution of salt rocks is less,
level of underground water increase and returns in earlier close original state.

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4. DETERMINATION OF EMPTY SPACES SIZE DUE TO DISSOLUTION OF


SALT ROCKS

At salt karst that originated from dissolution of salt rocks due to aggressiveness of
underground waters are no real empty spaces. Those are spaces in which are marl fractions
left after dissolution of salt and clayey muddy material that originated due to aggressiveness
of waters on marl rocks, whether they are layered or broken in the way of fractions. At
determination of total empty spaces, besides exploitation of brine and concentration of salt, is
necessary to put in the presence of marl rocks. In 1987 N. Đurić constructed a dependency
diagram of brine production, brine saturation and izluţenih spaces [21]. Same diagram N.
Đurić in 2017 had done in digital form as a dependency diagram of brine exploitation, salt
waters saturation and created empty spaces, figure 5. Defining of listed sizes can determine
the size of karst zone, but it is hard to separate boundary of an aggressive zone of karst from
after karst zone.
Use of diagram is simple if are known sizes, brine exploitation and its concentration. In points
1 and 2 are given values of brine production for different salt concentration, and size of empty
spaces as a chamber of regular and irregular shape. With knowing of percentage presence of
marl component in such spaces can be determined the volume of karst zone in which salt
component completely disappeared.

5. DISCUSSION

Topic processed in work is continuation to earlier studied legality of karst process


development on salt deposit in Tuzla. It started from natural exploitation to today, with
processing all stages of underground waters aggressiveness on salt rocks. With
geomorphological shaping of the terrain started natural dissolution of salt rocks, and water
with certain percent of salt concentration appeared on terrain surface as salt sources.
Dissolution of salt rocks left “empty spaces” that in beginning phase had characteristics of
karst shapes. From today’s time distance that is called old (ancient) salt karst. During time it
consolidated and created new geological environment that separated as a special environment
with partly new types of rocks from marl layers.
This process took place arond 500 000 years, with gradual development of karst zone, its
transition in an aggressive zone of karst and after that in after karst zone. Human impact on
regime of direction of underground waters accelerated the process of dissolution of salt rocks.
Phases of development and termination of karst process stayed the same, only occurred faster
in time.
Dependence of water aggressiveness on salt rocks and effects of that are given on diagram in
logarithmic ratio. Diagram have application at studying of karst processes, industrial brine
exploitation and chemical processes at dissolution of salt rocks.

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