Warta Geologi, Volume 45, No. 2, 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: franzlkessler32@gmail.com

Abstract: 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.

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

DOI : https://doi.org/10.7186/wg452201901