Mines de Sel de Bex 12/2010
During the 15th century, a saltwater spring was discovered by a goat shepherd who followed his animals that kept doing a detour one their way to the pasture. Ever since, people of the area have recovered the salt from this mountain. Different saltwater springs have been exploited until 1813, first at the surface, then underground. In 1813, miners discovered several lenses of a salt breccia (they called the “salty rock”) and started exploiting this new resource using common mining techniques. From 1865 until now the deposit is exploited using in-situ leaching.
Over the centuries miners have dug kilometers of galleries, stairs and shafts, just big enough for one (small) person to walk throug. Using only a hammer and a chisel they dug about 5 meters in a month under difficult working conditions
The 5th of December 2010, 13 members of our student chapter went for a four-hours walk in the old galleries of the Salt mines of Bex (Vaux Canton, Switzerland). Our two guides Jacqueline and Anita took us through an amazing underground labyrinth of small galleries, stairs and chambers. Along this 4km walk we went back in time discovering old wooden pipes left some centuries ago in a chamber, sometimes sliding on an old and ruin stair, knocking the helmet on the irregular roof of a gallery or seeing the sky from the bottom of a 115m deep shaft which is used for ventilation. We ended the visit in the underground historical museum before going back to surface aboard a miniature train especially build to fit the narrow galleries.
To recover from this adventure, there was nothing better than enjoying a genuine cheese fondue in a traditional "valaisan chalet restaurant".
For more information about the regional geology and the history of salt exploitation (documented since the 15th century) have a look on the article by H. Badoux from 1982 which is linked below.
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