Salt is an important mineral and is needed by all animals in their diet. During the early pioneer times salt was a matter of life and death. A solution of salt brine (salty water) sometimes makes it way to the surface and was in there areas the pioneers would collect the water and evaporate it, leaving the salt behind. They could then use the salt to preserve food to use year round. As more settlers made their way to the region, salt became a major industry. Large wells would be dug and the water would be forced evaporated by fires to get the salt quickly. By the 1850s, the area that is now West Virginia was producing over 3 million bushels of salt each year. West Virginia remains a major producer of salt today.