THE IRON AGE
We do not know when humans first detected the existence of the salt spring and learned to exploit its properties. However, thanks to the archaeological remains found near the "fontana" -a coin from the times of the Iberians, Roman ceramic remains, salt crystals, pieces of wood… -, we know that it was already being used in the Iron Age.
According to a document dating back to the sixteenth century, the salt works consisted, at that time, of a well used to store the salt water and 8 constructions - known as "dorlas" - that housed the same number of iron boilers (also called "dorlas"), in which the workers poured the salt water.
The heat produced by the burning wood placed under them resulted in the evaporation of the water, while the salt remained.
Production only took place from July to December. During the rest of the year, the frequent rainfall considerably reduced the salt content of the spring and the production was not profitable. These months, when salt was not produced, were used to collect firewood in the communal forests. Today this salt-making neighbourhood is known as Dorla.
In 1834, some devastating floods in the valley razed the production area and put an end to the manual production system.
The business now became the property of the company Products Leniz, which took advantage of the reconstruction to expand the facilities and to introduce a hydraulic system to extract the water from the salt well - 7 metre deep - and channel it up to each of the "dorlas": the bucket wheel (an exact replica of which has been reproduced in the museum).
This is when the truly industrial phase of exploitation began.
The last great renovation of the facilities took place around 1920, when the power generated by the bucket wheel was replaced by a pump unit, which extracted the water from the well and pumped it to some tanks built on a hill above the level of the factory; then it was channelled, using the force of gravity, to four interconnected vacuum hoppers that directly evaporated the water, allowing the salt to precipitate to the bottom and into a centrifuge for draining.
This large investment, however, only managed to increase production by 25%, resulting in 728 tons per year, which proved to be insufficient to cope with the fierce competition from sea-salt producers, which produced lower cost and lower quality salt.
In a last effort, the factory diversified and began to produce bleach and chlorine, a strategy that only delayed the final closure of Productos Léinz in 1972, putting an end to more than 1,500 years of salt production.