The family involvement with salt began when Captain Nigel Sutherland (Scotty) was instructed by military intelligence to examine and quantify all the available sources of salt in South Africa which could serve to supply KOP (Klipfontein Organic Products) with Salt for the production of Chlorine gas for military use. Thankfully these gases were never used.
After the War, and as a result of his earlier investigations, he and some friends acquired the Deelfontein property. On his death in 1952, the project lay dormant until 1954 when Nigel Sutherland (Jnr) and Vin Ward decided to develop a saltworks on the property.
As a result of innovative pan layout, harvesting and washing methods, the product met AECI’s strict quality control and the operation turned a profit.
In 1959, this experience led to the appointment of Nigel Sutherland as the Manager of the National Saltworks outside Port Elizabeth.
In 1968, after the Cerebos takeover of the company, Nigel Sutherland resigned and together with Vin Ward, started Technical Chemical and Metallurgical Consultants known as Techemet Inc. Before long Techemet’s services were being used extensively in the South African salt industry. Sun Salt Services CC, Reg No 68 / 03865 / 23 was first registered in 1968.
The reason for its formation was to centralise the sales function of a number of saltworks which had come under the management of Techemet Inc. This was necessary as there were a variety of different shareholders in the various producers, who were small and needed a unified front to increase market exposure and penetration.
Techemet Inc had considerable experience in solar salt production and among the projects, were not only the management of existing facilities but in some cases, the expansion thereof and in others the development of grassroots projects.
Of interest the existing works included:
- Vaalriver Saltworks
- Sewefontein Saltworks
- Britstown Saltworks
- Deelfontein Saltworks
- Northcape Saltworks
Grassroots projects included :
- Salt and Chemicals in Walvis Bay
- Kaalpan Saltworks
- Kranspan Saltworks
Subsequent additions were Holpan, Norokei and Grootwitpan Saltworks and the associated Salt Drying and Milling facilities.
The first manager of Sun Salt Services was Wiets Roets. His major task was to unify the various shareholders’ salt resources and assure them that Sun Salt was of value to them all.
He was followed by Eric Everton who was responsible for growing the business over many years until his health failed him in 1999.
Techemet Inc no longer manages the various saltworks and with the passage of time, most of the small original operations have exhausted the deposits on which they were based and no longer exist.
Today, Sun Salt Services, managed by Colin Rodel, secures salt from Grootwitpan in the Northern Cape and Cawood Saltworks on the West Coast. Salt Refiners and Packers Holding (Pty) Ltd as the holding company of the Salt group is overseen by Brian Sutherland, the Managing Director. Sun Salt Services continues to market product produced by the group – this represents in excess of 100 000 tons per year and covers most sections of the South African salt market.