Mines d'Asphalte Site de la Presta à Travers

Asphalt Mines of La Prest at Travers


Useful Information

Location: Traver, 1.5 km west towards Couvet on 10.
(46.931122, 6.656888)
Open: APR to JUN daily at 10, 14.
JUL to AUG daily at 10, 12, 14, 16.
SEP to OCT daily at 10, 14.
NOT to MAR Sat, Sun 14.
[2021]
Fee: Adults CHF 16, Children (5-16) CHF 10, Students CHF 12.50, Apprentices CHF 12.50, Family (2+3) CHF 42.50.
Groups (8+): Adults CHF 13.50, Children (5-16) CHF 7, Students CHF 10.50, Apprentices CHF 10.50.
[2021]
Classification: MineOil Mine
Light: helmet with headlamp provided
Dimension: L=100,000 m, I=8 °C.
Guided tours: D=90 min, L=1,000 m. V=22.000/a [2019]
Photography:  
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:  
Address: Mines d’Asphalte, Site de la Presta, 2105 Travers, Tel: +41-32-864-90-64. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1711 asphalt discovered by the Greek Doctor Eirini d’Eirinis.
1712 start of mining activities.
1830 second mine started at La Presta.
1873 bought by the British company Neuchâtel Asphalte Company Ltd. (NACO).
1960 NACO acquired by one of the largest road construction companies in Europe, the English company Tarmac.
1986 mine closed.
14-APR-1987 Navistra AG (Neuchâtel Asphalte Visite Travers) founded and mine opened as a show mine.
1991 Café des Mines opened.
1996 museum relocated and restaurant enlarged.
2011 Association Culturelle des Mines d’asphalte de la Presta (ACMAP) founded.

Description

For nearly 300 years, from 1712 to 1986, hard working men brought a precious mineral out of the mountain, natural asphalt. Huge quantities of this waterproof material were exported all over the world. The total length of galleries and chambers in this impressive underground world amounts to over 100 km. Nowadays, the Asphalt Mines of La Presta are open to the public and visitors can go for a most exciting voyage to the centre of the earth.

The adjacent Asphalt Museum tells the story of asphalt from the old days to the present time in an instructive and yet pleasant way, showing photos, written explanations, tools, machines and much more. In the Café des Mines, visitors will be able to appreciate the meal miners used to prepare on special occasions: ham cooked in hot asphalt. An outdoor picnic area is also available.


Text by Tony Oldham (JUN-2001). With kind permission.

The asphalt deposit at the northern side of the Val-de-Travers was discovered by the Greek Doctor Eirini d’Eirinis. He was a medical doctor, was interested in the therapeutic use of the asphalt, and he actually wrote his dissertation on this topic. The Dissertation sur l’asphalte ou ciment naturel (Dissertation on Asphalt or Natural Cement) was written in French. The site of the discovery near La Combe-Vaubayon was mined as an open cast since 1712. In 1830 a second mine started at La Presta, 1,5 km west of the town Travers. The mine changed ownership several times until it was finally bought by the British company Neuchâtel Asphalte Company Ltd. (NACO) in 1873. It was owned by them for almost 90 years, then one of the largest road construction companies in Europe, the English company Tarmac, acquired the mine. They owned it until 1986, when the mine was abandoned because it was not profitable any more.

In the following year the company Navistra AG (Neuchâtel Asphalte Visite Travers) was founded. It transformed the mine into a show mine and opened it to the public. At this time the Café des Mines did not exist, the room was used by a museum and there was just a small souvenir shop. The Café des Mines was opened in 1991, the souvenir shop abandoned, and the local specialty of ham cooked in asphalt was revived. Once it was cooked only before Christmas, on the 04-DEC, which is the day of Saint Barbara, the patron Saint of miners, fire fighters and geologists. Then the tradition was abandoned, but it was revived in the 1970s and is now one of the specialties at the restaurant.

The Association Culturelle des Mines d’asphalte de la Presta (ACMAP) was founded in 2011. It create a new exhibition called Asphalt Story, which explains the geologic processes for the formation of asphalt. The project partners were the Schweizerisches Institut für Speläologie und Karstologie (SISKA), the Swiss Karst Institute, and the Naturhistorisches Museum Natural History Museum) of Neuchâtel.