Bex Salt Mines - History and Facts | History Hit

Bex Salt Mines

Bex, Vaud, Switzerland

The Bex Salt Mines are a living museum of the salt mining industry which has operated here since the 17th century.

Peta Stamper

19 Apr 2021

About Bex Salt Mines

The Bex Salt Mines (Mines de Sel Bex) in Switzerland are a living museum of the salt mining industry which has operated here since the 17th century up until present day.

Visitors to the Bex Salt Mines can discover the story of this site, from the time salt was first discovered in the 15th century to how it was mined from 1684 onwards, right up until today. There is even the opportunity to descend into the depths of the Bex Salt Mines via a real mining train.

Bex Salt Mines history

Between 200 to 600 million years ago, the Rhône Valley was a shallow sea, and it is from this sea that the great salt deposits of Bex within the Canton of Vaud originate. The salt mines were not discovered until 1554 in Switzerland, and production of salt quickly followed with a salt works built in Roche. Initially run by foreign nobles, in 1685 the mines came under control of the Bernese state.

As the mines demanded large amounts of wood, in 1695 a forest was planted in the Joux Verte gorge. The trees and their natural evaporation was replaced with boiling in the 17th century to speed salt production. As demand grew, tunnels were dug to find new sources, which included deposits at Le Bévieux and Les Devens.

Bex Salt Mines today

Today, you can descend the well-lit staircase within the immense cavernous dark of the Bex Salt Mines. This working salt mine produces 30,000 tons of salt per year, and is comprised of a labyrinth of tunnels over 50 km long. When visiting the museum and mines, visitors can learn about the various techniques of salt mining that date back to 1684.

A small yellow subterranean train takes you through the mining complex to a restaurant 400 metres down. Tour are guided in French, so be sure to pick up an audioguide if you do not speak the language. For those brave enough, take an adventure tour into the original 17th century mines.

Getting to the Bex Salt Mines

If you are happy to hike, from the Bex CFF railway station to the Salt Mines it takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes. From the Bévieux TPC railway station to the Salt Mines, about 50 minutes. By car follow the A9 exit at Bex, then follow the brown road signs with “Mines de Sel” written on. Be aware not to confuse it with the Saline de Bex located just a few kilometres away.