Carreau Saint Joseph, 63700 Saint-Éloy-les-Mines
JUL to mid-AUG Wed-Fri 14-18, Sat 9:30-12:30, 14-18, Sun 10-12:30, 14-18:30.
Mid-AUG to AUG Wed, Thu 14-18, Sat 9:30-12:30, 14-18, Sun 10-12:30, 14-18:30.
SEP Sat 9:30-12:30, 14-18, Sun 10-12:30, 14-18:30.
Adults EUR 2, Children (0-11) free.
Groups (10+): Adults EUR 1.
|Classification:||Coal Mine Mining Museum|
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|Address:||Musée de la mine de Saint-Éloy-les-Mines, Carreau Saint Joseph, 63700 Saint-Éloy-les-Mines, Tel: +33-473-85-93-36, Tel: +33-473-85-08-24, Tel: +33-473-98-02-59. 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.
|1764||first mining activities by individuals.|
|1789||mining intensified during the French Revolution.|
|1869||Saint-Barbe shaft sunk.|
|1897||Saint-Joseph shaft sunk.|
|1946||coal mines nationalized, Houillères du Bassin d'Auvergne created by decree.|
The Saint Joseph mine was an anthracite coal mine of the mining basin called grand sillon houiller du Massif Central (great Massif Central coalfield). These are several synclines of sedimentary rocks with beds of coal interbedded. The synclines form bowl-like structures.
The Musée de la mine de Saint-Éloy-les-Mines (Mining Museum Saint-Éloy-les-Mines) is located inside a new building at the foot of an old headframe. It is also known as Maison de la Mine (Mine House). The headframe of the puits Saint-Joseph (Saint-Joseph shaft) is located near the town center of Saint-Éloy-les-Mines. The reception of the mining museum also contains the tourist office. The exhibition space is dedicated to the daily life of the miners. Other parts of the museum are the chambre chaude (hot room), lampisterie (lamp room), and the site d'abattage (slaughtering house). The museum also has a cinema and many models of mines and mining technology. A closed courtyard at the back of the building has a sort of open air exhibition of the heavy equipment. This includes a mining train.
The mining in the area started around 1764, the first owners were peasants who rented the mines to four or five day laborers. They worked in the mines about three months per year, when they had nothing better to do. The coal was mostly used for limestone kilns, and it was said to be of medium or low quality. During the French Revolution, from the late 17th century, mining was intensified. At this time, the village called La Vernade had numerous collieries while nearby Mas Boutin had lead mines. They mined galena or lead(II) sulfide (PbS) with a silver content. The small villages were merged and became Saint-Éloy.
In 1824 the company Bazile, Louis-Maître & Cie was created by several owners of steelworks in Châtillon-sur-Seine. One of the owners, Auguste de Marmont had introduced a new method for iron production in furnaces, which was called the procédé anglais (English process). Before iron was melted using charcoal, which created a high temperature to melt the iron from the ore. But the process destroyed all forests in the area and wood became very rare and expensive. Coal was available in greater amounts, but normal coal did not produce enough heat. One of the foundations of the industrial revolutions was the discovery, that it is possible to produce coke from coal in a similar process as the creation of charcoal from wood. Discovered in Ironbridge in Great Britain, the name English process fits. The new founded company was intended to intensify coal mining and coke production for the use in iron furnaces.
In 1862, the Société des forges de Châtillon et Commentry was created as a public limited company, by the merger of smaller companies. From 1897 it was known as Compagnie des forges de Châtillon, Commentry et Neuves-Maisons and it was a famous French steel and mining company. It merged in 1979 with the Usinor group and disappeared, During the more than 100 years of its existence it operated mostly steel works and furnaces, but also the mining companies for coal and iron ore. It acquired the Société anonyme des houillères et du chemin de fer de Saint-Éloy-les-Mines in 1881. The production of coal rose continually until World War I. This was on one side a good thing for the collieries, but on the other side there were the hard and dangerous working conditions of the miners. At the same time the formation of unions and numerous social movements created better working conditions.
Between the wars the mining and iron industry was restructured, and after World War II in 1946 all coal mines in France were nationalized. The Houillères du Bassin d'Auvergne was created by decree to manage the coal mining. It operated the mine until the coal reserves run out in 1977. The colliery at Saint-Éloy-les-Mines was closed on 17-JAN-1978.
This is a museum with an impressive historic headframe, but there is no underground mine tour. It seems the mine filled with water after it was abandoned. Also, there were two massive collapses, one in the 1950s and the other in the 1960s, which created huge dolines. They also filled with groundwater and are today used for bathing and quite popular. The museum and the tourist office are open only during summer. Nevertheless, if you are in the area you should definitely go there to see the headframe, which is quite spectacular. During our last research on mines in the Auvergne we found numerous homepages which were gone, this includes the page on the municipal website of Saint-Éloy-les-Mines. It seems the former websites were replaced by blogs, and instead of pages there are now changing blogposts, which make it actually impossible to link them. As a result the "official" links on various third oarty sites are defunct now.