La Mine Image

Motte d'Aveillans Anthracite Mine

Useful Information

Location: 1 Rue D'Aveillans, 38770 La Motte-d'Aveillans.
South of Grenoble. Take N85 south to La Mure, turn right on D529 to La Motte d'Aveillans, in the center of the village.
(44.9606530, 5.7423668)
Open: NOV to MAR Sat, Sun 14, 15, 16.
APR Wed, Sat Sun 14, 15, 16.
MAY daily 14, 15, 16.
JUN to mid-SEP daily10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.
Mid-SEP to SEP daily 14, 15, 16.
OCT daily 14, 15, 16.
French School Holidays daily 14, 15, 16.
Reservation mandatory.
Fee: Adults EUR 8.50, Children (6-16) EUR 4.50, Children (0-5) free, Seniors (65+) EUR 8.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 7, Children (6-16) EUR 4.50.
Classification: MineCoal Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=60 km, T=13 °C.
Guided tours: D=90 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: La Mine Image, Route des 4 galeries, 38770 La Motte d'Aveillans, Tel: +33-476-30-68-74. 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.


1640 on the orders of the Constable Duc de Lesdiguieres, 100 quintals per week were supplied to make the lime needed to build Grenoble's fortifications.
1768 first horizontal gallery opened by Baron de Venterol, Seigneur de La Motte.
1956 mine at La Motte d'Aveillans closed.
FEB-1986 association Sauvegarde et mise en valeur du patrimoins mottois (Safeguarding and Enhancement of Mottois Heritage association) founded.
1995 show mine opened to the public.
1997 mine at Le Villaret closed, end of coal mining in the area.
2011 museum extended with a second building.


During the Carboniferous (300 to 350 Ma) the Earth was a vast greenhouse with a hot, humid climate, covered in swamps and lush vegetation. This area was a basin which subsided, and plant debris accumulated, buried under sediment. This often-repeated process of superimposed deposits created solid, combustible substances with a high carbon content. The sedimentary rocks deposited on top created pressure and high temperature which caused a process named coalification. The peat was transformed into brown coal, hard coal, and finally anthracite. The last has the highest content of carbon, almost pure and is of the highest value as it burns very well, hot and without producing poisonous gases. Burning it produces only carbon dioxide, which is the reason for the current climate change, nevertheless it is much better than the other kinds of caol. It also allows high temperatures and thus the use in iron furnaces.

The geological situation is rather complicated. This is a result of the Alpine orogeny, the formation of the Alps. The Matheysin plateau is located between the Oisans and Vercors massifs in the Alpes Occidentales. It was uplifted by the orogeny to an altitude of between 800 and 1000 metres. It was also divided into two parts by the Dôme de la Mure, a crystalline bulge which was also lifted and relocated by the tectonic movements.


La Mine Image (Image Mine) is a Colliery located at La Motte d'Aveillans on the Matheysin plateau. The coal was mined in the area for a thousand years in the La Mure anthracite mines, quite recently closed in 1997. But like with all coal mines, the mining during the Middle Ages was a low scale, only for the own consumption of the locals, there was no possibility to transport the coal anywhere to customers. This changed in the mid-19th century with the industrial revolution and the construction of railroads, which both provided transport and a customer. The museum was created by the association Sauvegarde et mise en valeur du patrimoins mottois (Safeguarding and Enhancement of Mottois Heritage association), which was founded in 1986. The volunteers had the idea to create a mining museum, most of them were active or retired miners. They cleared the galleries, carried out major work, and organized guided tours by former miners. The first building was constructed in 1995 and opened to the public as a mining museum. It was extended in 2011.

In 1455, the future King Louis XI created the post of the maître-mineur ("master miner") in the castellanies of La Mure, Vizille and La Cluze. Guillaume Bas was appointed to this post. The term mines de charbon de pierre (stone coal mines) appeared for the first time in 1618 in the book L'histoire naturelle de la Fontaine qui brusle by Jean TARDIN, Doctor of Medicine. The real exploitation began in 1640. On the orders of the Constable Duc de Lesdiguieres, 100 quintals per week were supplied to make the lime needed to build Grenoble's fortifications. At that time, residents had free use of the subsoil on their property, but could only dispose of the coal extracted for their own personal use. Sale of the surplus was subject to payment of royalties to the Seigneur de La Motte. In 1768, the first horizontal gallery was opened by Baron de Venterol, Seigneur de La Motte. Héricart de Thury submitted a severe report on the anarchic way in which the mines were being exploited, stating that "the revolting looting was likely to accelerate the general ruin of the coal mines". This report led to Napoleon's decree in 1805, which returned ownership of the subsoil to the State and granted the first concessions.

The coal mining concessions were granted from November 1805 to September 1806. The combination of the three concessions Peychagnard, La Grand'Raye, and Les Béthoux led to the creation of the Compagnie des Mines d'Anthracite de La Mure. It was quite successful for 140 yeqrs, 18 million tonnes of anthracite were extracted during this period. By decree of 27-JUN-1946, the nationalization of the La Mure mines took effect on 01-JUL-1946. The situation was delicate, the installations dilapidated and the equipment worn out. In 1956, the mining centre was moved from La Motte d'Aveillans to Le Villaret, in other words, the mine was closed. The radical change in operating methods led to production peaking in 1966 at 791,000 tonnes. In 1968, the recession plan led to a drop in production to 375,000 tonnes in 1974. Following the oil crisis, recruitment resumed. Threats of closure and recovery plans followed until 1997, when the mine finally closed.

The museum is located in a modern building which was erected on top of the old mine entrance. The vast network of 60 km of galleries starts here, the first 250 m may be visited on an underground tour. This is quite exceptional, as coal mines are typically mined in a way where mined seams are collapsed, and also the mines are normally flooded after the pumps were shut down. The mine passages are the access tunnel though, not the coal seam. Nevertheless, the so-called underground museum is quite spectacular, a combination of original mine and mine replica, with a great variety of exhibits including documents, tools, and machinery.

The mining deep undergrounbd was made with three shafts, all of them with quite impressive headframes on top for the elevator. The Puits Sainte Marie at La Motte d'Aveillans was built in 1905, it is now part of the museum. The Puits Henry De Reneville ws built in 1942, and later renamed Puits Des Rioux. The youngest was the Puits Du Villaret which was built in 1948, after the nationalization. All headframes can be visited, they are Historic Monuments. But the most important technical development for the coal mining was actually the introduction of compressed air in 1911. It revolutionized working conditions, as the air powered hammer increased productivity while reducing the workload of the miner.

The techniques used to transport the coal to the outside evolved over the centuries. In the early 19th century it was carried by boys of around twelve years of age in sacks. A typical example of child labour, which was quite common in mining at that time. Later, chestnut baskets were mounted on runners weighing 150 kg and loaded onto flat-bottomed wagons. Then horse-drawn mine trains transported the coal. The horses were later replaced by battery-powered locomotives, then by trolley engines.

The exhibition explains this technological development quite impressive. Other highlights of the exhibition are the lamp room, and the salle des pendus (hanged man's room) where the clothes were hanged on metal chains and puled to the ceiling.

The train which was once used to transport the coal is today a tourist attraction. It starts at La Mure and runs parallel to the road through La Motte d'Aveillans to the Belvédère des Grand Balcons.

The museum has guided tours which include the underground part. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make a visit without a reservation, which seems rather strange as it is actually a museum which is even wheelchair-accessible. We strongly recommend to make a reservation. Reservations can be made on their website, if you want to make a reservation for the same day please call by phone, the form sends an email which might not be