Musée des Gueules Rouges

Useful Information

Location: Avenue de la Libération, 83170 Tourves.
(43.4110690, 5.9198450)
Open: FEB to APR Wed, Sat, Sun, Hol 14-18, tours 14:30, 15:30.
MAY to SEP Wed, Sat, Sun, Hol 14-18, tours 14:30, 15:30, 16:30.
OCT to 15-DEC Wed, Sat, Sun, Hol 14-18, tours 14:30, 15:30.
School Holidays Wed-Sun.
Closed 01-MAY, 01-NOV, 11-NOV.
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children (6-18) EUR 4, Children (0-5) free, Students EUR 4, Disabled EUR 4, Unemployed EUR 4.
Groups (10+): Adults EUR 5, Children (6-18) EUR 3.
Classification: MineClay Mine Bauxite SubterraneaReplica Underground Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=10 °C.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography: Claude Arnaud, Jean-Marie Guillon (1989): Les Gueules Rouges, un siècle de bauxite dans le Var, 176 pages, A4 size, 139 photos, over 50 documents.
Address: Musée des Gueules Rouges, Avenue de la Libération, 83170 Tourves, Tel: +33-494-86-19-63. E-mail: contact E-mail:
Mairie de Tourves, Service des régies, Place de l'Hôtel de ville, F-83170 Tourves, Tel: 0494-787795.
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.


1822 mineralogist and mining engineer Pierre Berthier (*1782-✝1861) discovers aluminium ore near Les Baux and names it bauxite.
1886 electrolysis of aluminium developed simultaneously and independently by the French Paul Héroult (*1863-✝1914) and the American Charles Hall (*1863-✝1914).
1887 industrial production process of alumina from bauxite developed by Austrian chemist Karl Joseph Bayer.
1983 Tourvaine Popular History Association opens a research project on the bauxite mines of the Var.
1989 exhibition presented in several municipalities in the basin, book published.
1990 last bauxite mine closed.
2003 museum opened to the public.
2010 museum destroyed by fire.
15-JUN-2012 new museum opened to the public, new website.


Bauxite deposits of Albian age occur in the Var district in southeastern France.


The Musée des Gueules Rouges (museum of the Red Faces) is dedicated to a really special resouce typical for the Provence. It is an exhibition with some 500 exhibits on the local bauxite mining. The name is a result of the red colour of the bauxite, which made the faces (and the rest of the miners) red.

Soft sediments or earths exist in the area in abundance. Well known, since the Stone Age, are the red and brown ochre sediments. Those are composed of silt and a high amount of oxidized iron, which is responsible for the colour. Depending on the temperature during the sedimentation the colour changes between red and brown. Those rocks are mined, sorted by colour and milled into a fine powder. This powder is an ideal pigment and thus the base of many colours.

The second important resource of the area is bauxite. The white, red, or brown, silt-like earth exists in the Provence in abundance. Type locale is the small village Les Baux in the Provence, hence the name bauxite. It is a remains of chemical weathering, the aluminium oxides which are part of aluminium rich feldspars are dissolved less easily than the rest of the rock, as a result they remain in huge layers. The increasing importance of this resource was a result of the developing chemical science. After scientists discovered how easily bauxit can be split into its components by using electricity, aluminium became an important basis of daily life.

The museum is dedicated to the bauxite mining history in this area. The men went to open cast mines to collect the soft earth with picks and shovels in the late 19th century. Soon the mining reached industrial dimensions, both open cast and underground mining. The mines were located at the towns Mazaugues, Brignoles, Vins, Le Val, Cabasse and Le Luc. Tourves, where the museum is located, played an important role for the transport of the ore due to its railway station. The Var was the major bauxite deposit in France and the country held the role of world leader for several decades. The mining ended in the 1980s when it became unprofitable. The last mine closed in 1990.

This museum was opened in 2003 with the unbelievable long name Musée des Gueules Rouges du Var et de la Bauxite (Museum of the Red Faces of the Var and of the Bauxite). When the museum was destroyed in a fire in 2010 it was relocated, recreated and renamed. The new Musée des Gueules Rouges was opened in 2012. It now includes a simulated tour into an underground bauxite mine, including helmets. It has also become a sort of science museum and explains the processes of aluminium production and the various uses of aluminium.