Mining communities past and present

The "Red maws": les gueules rouges.

The red maws is the nickname of bauxite miners. The bauxite is the aluminium ore, it is a red stone.

After a day in the mine, the faces of the miners were red colored.

The pupils discovered the old mines of Bauxite, the aluminium ore.

In the morning, they worked on the field : measure of strike, dip angle and dip direction of the rock layers.

The afternoon, visit of the « mine » in the « musée des gueules rouges » (red maws museum). They worked in the museum and met Patrick, who was a miner.
 The old man worked in the mine when he was 15 years old and for the next 25 years.

field-book for pupils


Use of the mobile ITC devices on the field
Helgustaðir Iceland spar mine

The Iceland spar mine at Helgustaðir is one of the best-known in the world. Iceland spar was mined there from the 17th century until the early 20th century.

Helgustaðir is the name of a farm site on the northern shore of the Reydarfjord in the outer east of Iceland. The deposit of outstanding transparent calcite was discovered in the 17th century and was intermittently mined for many decades until 1924.

The transparency of the crystals was sufficient for the optical industry and therefore the calcite quickly became famous as "Iceland spar" and its marvellous crystals were rapidly distributed among the leading European scientists of that time. The crystal has a double reflection of the light, which gives the illusion that you see everything double if you lay a clear crystal on a written text. The initial concepts of double refraction and crystal cleavage planes were first discovered on calcite crystals from this site and led to a far better understanding of crystal physics. Icelandic spar was used for all kinds of precision instruments, such as microscopes, until synthetic materials took over.

It has been speculated that the Vikings used the light-polarizing property of Iceland spar, which they called sunstone to tell the direction of the sun on cloudy days, for navigational purposes.

More information here.
Iceland spar: the Helgustadir calcite locality and its influence on the development of science.

Magnetite mining in Liconi, Colonna and Costa del Pino, located on the slopes of Mount Creya, is thought to have started as far back as the time of the Salassi and the Romans and continued until 1979, when the mines were officially closed.

The Cogne mines are a solid reminder of what was for many years one of the main sources of income for local people.

The remains of the cableway used to transport the material, the passenger funicular that went from Cogne to Colonna and several buildings, can still be seen today; the miners had access to a shop, a library and even a cinema.

The old mining village, a few kilometres out of town, currently houses the Fondation Grand Paradis, where the Gran Paradiso National Park visitor's centre is located and the Alpinart exhibition centre, where a temporary exhibition about mining is currently open, telling the story of Cogne.

The centre houses the permanent exhibition The Cogne Mines, an itinerary about the history, the geology, the mining complex and the production activity of the magnetite mine that influenced the history of Cogne. The miners' tools, instruments and work-wear are presented, together with the history of the Mine and its famous personalities and a 1938 documentary showing the work during the Mine activity period. One of the halls is dedicated to hydroelectric energy, an element as essential as magnetite for the fundamental iron and steel development of XX-century Aosta Valley, with one of Cogne's first hydroelectric plants and a film showing its operation.

In January 2015 when our French partners came to Aosta Valley, we took them to see the Miners' Village so that they could experience what working in the mines was like. Here are some photos from that day:

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It seems there are plans to mine Lithuanian amber lying in the Curonian lagoon

Palanga amber museum
Wałbrzych, "OLD MINE. Stara kopalnia"

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Banska Stiavnica

Dubnik- Presov
Panning gold

Cercs coal mine

Cardona salt mine