The practice of salt harvesting is also related to Malta’s history, and it may be Malta’s oldest industry. Some of the salt pans (‘Salini’) date back to Roman Times, however salt production reached its utmost during the times of the Knights of St. John. Large scale production commenced in the nineteenth century especially in Salina Bay. Unfortunately, salt has lost most of its use since perishable foods are no longer preserved in salt.
The season of salt production is open from May to September, depending on the weather. Sea water fills the pans along the coastline. This water is channelled to other pens and left to settle for about a week. The water dries up and salt crystals begin to form. The weather controls salt production, for example northerly winds dry up the water faster.
Although the Special Area of Conservation in which The Cliffs Interpretation Centre is situated, is dominated by cliffs, there are other often hidden spots which are closer to the sea. Il-Blata tal-Melħ is one of these features; this shore platform has developed on the relatively soft rock of the Globigerina Limestone close to Fomm ir-Riħ Bay. The isolated Blata tal-Melħ, literally translated into ‘Salt Rock,’ shows how the wind and the sea have worked together to shape the landscape. The area is secluded and untainted by human hands, except for several salt pans which had been excavated. The salt pans at Blata tal-Melħ, would have made maximum use of the salt pens through their location, since the area is exposed to the prevailing northwesterly wind. There is also a dug well-head and rock-cut stairs, which lead directly to the sea. Whilst the salt pans are nowadays abandoned, this area is still sought after especially by local fishermen.
Nowadays, only a few salt pans have continued to be harvested such as in Marsascala in south Malta and Xwejni in Gozo. Obsolete salt pans, such as those of Blata tal-Melħ, still show us the important role that salt had in the Maltese Islands.