Musée de la Mine Thio

Mine du plateau de Thio

Useful Information

Location: Rue Rapadzi, Thio 98829.
(-21.612945, 166.214759)
Open: All year Mon-Fri 8-16:30, Sat 8:30-14:30.
Fee: Adults CFP 200, Children (6-18) CFP 100, Children (0-5) free.
Guided Toru Museum: Adults CFP 1,500.
Mine tour: Adults CFP 5,000, Mine only CFP 3,00, Tribal Lunch CFP 2,000.
Classification: MineNickel Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: 4 rooms
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Musée de la Mine, Rue Rapadzi, BP 25, Thio 98829, New Caledonia, 98 829, Tel: +687-44-25-04. 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.


1864 Jules Garnier, a young French mining engineer, discovers a previously unknown ore on the banks of the Dumbéa River and names it garnierite.
1873 beginn of mining operations at Plateau Mine near Thio, first foundry at Nouméa.
1880 Jules Garnier and John Higginson found the Société Le Nickel (SLN).
1889-1891 foundry at Ouroué.
1912-1930 foundry at Thio Mission.
1921-1923 head office of SLN at Thio.
1972 Doniambo factory modernized, Elkem ovens replaced by Demag ovens.
1985 SLN becomes a 100% subsidiary of the Eramet group.
1990 Nisshin Steel becomes shareholder.
1993 Museum of Mining of Thio inaugurated.
2010 museum temporarily transferred while the building was renovated.
2012 first anti-liquid surface effect ore carrier docks at Doniambo.
2015 exhibitions return to renovated building.


Garnierite is a hydrated silicate of nickel and magnesium. Nickel is used for making money and jewellery less prone to oxidation.


Musée de la Mine Thio is dedicated to the nickel mining. The nickel deposit was discovered by Jules Garnier in 1864. On the banks of the Dumbéa River he discovered a previously unknown ore which he named garnierite and soon developed the process for extracting nickel. Nickel mining is (locally) called the Garnierite mining industry. The Thio Mining Center started operation in 1880, for the nickel mining Jules Garnier and John Higginson founded the Société Le Nickel (SLN). The mining at Thio became world-famous, because in the 1880s it was the first nickeliferous mineral which was mined, just for the nickel. Before, nickel was only one metal which was mined in low amounts in polymetallic ores. But this lasted only a few years, in 1889 Canada also began producing nickel. Nevertheless, Thio was a rich commune up until the 1930s, with a harbour able to accommodate the big mineral cargo sailing ships. But the global economic crisis of the 1930s and the events of World War II ended this financial success. And actually, there was always the danger of over production, numerous mines opened in New Caledonia, which has 200 mining companies. The new nickel boom in the early 1970s gave Thio a boost, but at that time there were numerous other nickel mines all over the world and so the boom was rather small. The traditional Elkem ovens were replaced by the first Demag ovens in 1972 which modernized the industrial activity of the Doniambo factory.

SLN developed the nickel mining and processing for more than a century. They developed major innovations like the processing of the poorly mineralized fringe ores. They also developed a new means of transport by separating the water contained in the ore. Before the water in the ore could cause the overturning of ships. They patented the process in 2012 but made it free to use for everyone, to contribute to the safety of the ship crews.

The Mine du plateau de Thio (Plateau Mine) is the oldest open-cast mine in the world still in operational use. The name is derived from the fact that it is located on a plateau at an altitude of around 600 m asl. The tourist office, which is in the building beneath the museum, offers tours into the huge open cast. Once a month they organize a tour of the mine and museum followed by a tribal meal. As far as we know it is the only mine which can be visited in New Caledonia.

The museum is housed in an ancient colonial-style house. The building formerly belonged to the company Société Le Nickel (SLN), it was the home of its local director. The permanent exhibition shows the development of the mining and the town. There is a collection of mining tools and a mineral collection. The only drawback is that all explanatory signs are only in French, for international visitors and the many visitors from New Zealand, an english translation would be very helpful. The grounds have numerous machines and vehicles. There is a mine train pulled by an old steam locomotive, a truck with a drilling machine, and the pylons of the old overhead lift, which was in use from 1951 to 1974. They also sell specimens of the nickel ore garnierite. The museum is located on the same premises as the tourist office, the tourist offic is in the northern wing of the same building, and the contact is actually the tourist info.