The enigma of the Bario salt produced in the highlands of northern Sarawak

Warta Geologi, Vol. 45, No. 2
Author : Franz L. Kessler, John Jong, Mazlan Madon
Publication : Warta Geologi
Page : 31 - 39
Volume Number : 45
Year : 2019

Warta Geologi, Vol. 45, No. 2, April-June 2019, pp. 31–39


The enigma of the Bario salt produced in the highlands of
northern Sarawak


Franz L. Kessler1,*, John Jong2,
Mazlan Madon3

1 Goldbach Geoconsultants O&G and Lithium
Exploration, Germany

2 JX Nippon and Gas Exploration (Malaysia)
Limited, Malaysia

3 Advisor, Malaysian Continental Shelf Project,
National Security Council, Malaysia

* Corresponding author email address:


The Bario/Kelabit Highlands, located in northern Sarawak is famous for its
rice. One of Bario’s hidden treasures, however, is its salt, produced from the
many salt springs in the area but sold in small quantities at the local
marketplace such that its existence is not well known outside of Sarawak. The
Bario salt is probably of non-marine origin but its actual origin is not clear.
A new salt analysis, in the context with older salt spring data, has enabled a
comparison with other non-marine salts. In particular, the presence of borate
and lithium points to potential affinities with non-marine highland salts, such
as those found in Argentina, Bolivia, Nevada and Tibet, as well as with
phreatic brine salt such as the Jadar deposit in Serbia. The marked content of
iodine makes allusion to brines in the vicinity of hydrocarbon-bearing
reservoirs. Given that the Bario salt contains hardly any sulphate, and very
little calcium, the source of the salt is unlikely to be an evaporite-bearing
rock in the subsurface as previously thought. Nonetheless, there should be more
fieldwork conducted and analyses made on the highland salt deposits and
associated brines in northern Sarawak to provide a better understanding of
their geochemical composition and origin.


Malaysia, Sarawak, Bario, Kelabit, saltwater spring, salt composition


0126–5539; e-ISSN 2682-7549