Carrière de talc de Trimouns


Useful Information

photography
Talc from Luzenac, Ariège, France. Public Domain.
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Cable Car, Luzenac, Ariège, France. Public Domain.
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Cable Car in 1900, Luzenac, Ariège, France. Public Domain.
Location: Luzenac.
From Toulouse RN20 to Luzenac, D2 and then private road to "Carrière de Talc".
(42.799974, 1.800298)
Open: Mid-MAY to JUN daily 16.
JUL to AUG daily 10, 11, 14, 15, 16.
SEP to mid-OCT daily 16.
Tours were closed due to Covid-19, hours for 2022 not yet available.
[2007]
Fee: Adults EUR 8.40, Children EUR 5.70, Family (2+*) EUR 22.50.
Groups: Adults EUR 6.60, Children EUR 4.
[2019]
Classification: MineTalc Mine MineTagebau
Light: n/a
Dimension: L=1,560 m, W=880 m, A=1,800 m asl.
Guided tours:  
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Philippe de Parseval, Urs Schärer, Mireille Polvé (1999): Cretaceous Formation of the Trimouns Talc-Chlorite Deposit (Pyrénées, France) from Long-Lasting Hydrothermal Activity Journal of Conference Abstracts, EUG 10, Volume 4, Number 1.
Freddy Marty (2004): The Trimouns quarry, Luzenac - Ariège - France The Mineralogical Record: 35(3): (May/Jun 2004), 225-247; 274.
Address: Carrière de talc de Trimouns, Tel: +33-561-64-68-05. E-mail:
Office de Tourisme des Pyrénées Ariégeoises - Ax-les-Thermes, 6, avenue Théophile Delcassé, 09110 Ax-les-Thermes, Tel: +33-561-64-60-60. 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.

History

1845 institution of mining rights, Jacques Durand acquires the exploitation rights for the talc of Bestiac, Lordat and Vernaux.
1888 bought by Julien Damas and managed by the engineer Georges Goubeau.
1905 quarry operated by the Société des Talcs de Luzenac.
1919 Georges Goubeau succeeded by his son-in-law, Paul Fédou.
1945 succeeded by his son-in-law, Pierre Villemur.
1965 production reaches 200,000 tonnes per year with 800 employees.
1988 quarry taken over by the Luzenac Group, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto.
2011 taken over by the Imerys group.

Geology

The seam at Trimouns was formed 300 million years ago in a fault between two masses of rock. On one side the rock is gneiss and the other dolomite. In the fault, as a result of the movement and pressure, the rock was grounded, allowing the infiltration of water containing large amounts of magnesium from the dolomite. The magnesium attached itself to the silicate in the gneiss forming magnesium silicate or talc. In other words the talc is a hydrothermal formation, which was only possible because of the rare tectonic situation.

Description

photography
Talc from Luzenac, Ariège, France. Public Domain.
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The central collection point, Luzenac, Ariège, France. Public Domain.

The Carrière de talc de Trimouns (Trimouns Talc Mine) is a huge open cast where talc is mined. It produces 400,000 tons of talc per year and employs 310 permanent and 110 seasonal workers. Located at an altitude of 1,800 m asl, the quarry operates only from April to November. The reserves are estimated at about 50 million tonnes or sixty years of operation.

Trimouns is said to be the world's most important open-cast talc deposit. The mineral talc (steatite) occurs in thick layers between gneiss and dolomite. Mining at the deposit started around 1800, first by locals who mined manually and used donkeys to transport the talc to the valley. In 1845 with the institution of mining rights, the mining started officially. Jacques Durand, a painter and gilder in Toulouse, acquired the exploitation rights for the talc of Bestiac, Lordat and Vernaux for 4,000 francs. He started large scale mining and even acquired the Labail mill in Luzenac but in 1888 he went bankrupt. The rights were bought by a lawyer from Toulouse named Julien Damas. He hired the engineer Georges Goubeau to manage the mining operation. He increased the mining and installed a cable car for the transport. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Paul Fédou, who became general engineer in 1919. He modernized the quarry with steam shovels, then electric shovels imported from the USA, and Raymond crushers. It seems the quarry became a sort of family heirloom because he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Pierre Villemur in 1945.

It is a huge open cast with steps or levels, mining is currently taking place on the 12th level. The mineral-rich layers are loosened up by blasting and loaded with large excavators on huge mine trucks with a capacity of up to 70 tonnes. The trucks transport the rocks to the central collection point, from where they are transported down to the processing plant in Luzenac via a 14 km long cable car. The talc is deposited on huge piles during the season, the factory for the processing of the talc works year-round.

More than 60 minerals have been described from Trimouns so far. The deposit is the type locality of gatelite and trimounsite. It is famous for its rare earth minerals, including allanite, bastnäsite, dissakisite, gadolinite, hellandite, hingganite, imorite, monazite, parisite, synchisite, törnebohmit and xenotim. Almost all known minerals occur in micro sizes, crystals of allanite and bastnäsite up to more than 1 cm in size are rather rare. Dolomite and pyrite can form crystals up to several cm, but are usually massive or ingrown. The main mineral talc (steatite) occurs as precious talc (snow-white), as well as grey and greenish. The site is also quite popular among mineral collectors, especially micro mounters. Unfortunately the mining company does not allow collectors on their premises, permits are given only rarely and only for scientific work. Obviously they have to look on slag heaps instead.

The tours of the quarry are made by bus, for individual visitors the bus is provided. Groups are defined by "those having their own bus for the tour". That's quite special, but has some logic. In case of uncertain weather, inquire at the Info Point of the Tourist Office in Luzenac, Maison des Vallées d'Ax, 6, rue de la Mairie, or by telephone +33-561-64-68-05, one hour before the visit.