Carreau Rodolphe - Ungersheim AlsaceCarreau Rodolphe - Ungersheim Alsace
©Carreau Rodolphe - Ungersheim Alsace|Fonds documentaires Rodolphe

The potash route

relive the mining saga of the Mulhouse area

In the North, it was coal, but in Mulhouse and its basin, it was potash that shaped the landscape of the area. Dive into a fascinating part of local history!

A little history

From Amélie’s dream to the rehabilitation of mining sites

A little more than a century ago, Amélie Zurcher, who owned a farm in Cernay, dreamed that “something was hidden underground” to ensure her fortune.

In 1904, the soil was probed. While she expected to find coal, it is on a deposit of sylvinite, an ore of potash, that she falls. Its exploitation begins in 1910 for industry to make mainly fertilizer.

This is the beginning of the golden age of potash mines in Alsace, which will last until 2002, when the last mines, Amélie I and Amélie II, are closed.

Associations have been created for the safeguarding of the Joseph Else, Rodolphe and Théodore tiles. With the help of the public authorities, the PotashRoute was created in 2017.

At the height of potash mining, between 1948 and 1950, the mines employed almost 14,000 people in 24 shafts.

The tiles, witnesses of the miners’ daily life

The potash road is an circuit of 18 km that covers four communes and emblematic sites: 4 remarkable mines and five points of interest.

The Carreau Joseph-Else in Wittelsheim, listed as a historical monument, presents a complete set of two shafts and headframes, an extraction machine as well as the adjoining buildings. The visit with a former miner is full of emotion, especially in the “room of the hanged”, the former checkroom of the miners.

At Staffelfelden, the Carreau Marie-Louise has been rehabilitated into an economic zone and the Cité Rossalmend still houses nearly 700 houses built by the MDPA (Mines de Potasse d’Alsace).

At the Carreau Rodolphe de Pulversheim, the oldest extraction machine in the potash basin is still in working order, while the carreau Théodore in Wittenheim houses a memorial to the victims of the mine.

3 reasons to discover the Potash Route

An exceptional heritage

The oldest well is Amélie I, in homage of course to Amélie Zurcher: it was created in 1910.

The deepest well, Ensisheim II, went down to 1033 m underground, or more than three times the size of the Eiffel Tower! In the bowels of this shaft, the average temperature was more than 50°C: one can easily imagine how trying the work must have been.

At Staffelfelden stood the highest headframe in France: 74 meters. This represents ¾ of the height of the Tour de l’Europe in Mulhouse.

At Wittenheim, a memorial lists the names of more than 800 workers who died in accidents in the mines.

At the Rodolphe Barrel in Pulversheim, you can discover, among other things, a complete and unique set of mining machines in France, ranging from the 1950s to the year 2004.

A landscape shaped by potash mining

In the potash basin, many slag heaps bear witness to the intense mining activity that took place there. Made of embankments, they reach significant heights and dot the hilly landscape.

The dumps can be spotted from afar: several are still standing, including that of the Théodore tile, all metal.

Finally, discover the typical alignments of “mine houses”in the villages of the potassium basin.

Guided or individual visit?

The Tourist Office offers guided tours for groups: “Discovering the Potash of Alsace”. Do not hesitate to contact us!!

If you choose to do the Potash Route individually, download the route on your smartphone thanks to the Cirkwi app.

The associations of former miners regularly open their doors in order to tell as many people as possible about the history of the potash mines: they will have a lot of fun telling you about their job.

Learn more about the Potash Route

To travel the Potash Route, a vehicle is required as it is located north of Mulhouse and extends for 18 km.

Start of the tour: Museum of the Mine and Potash – avenue Josephe Else Wittelsheim

Find the route on the Cirkwi app.

Tours are moments of intense emotion, especially when former miners share their memories and realities on the ground. The difficult work sites, extreme temperatures and danger made working in the mines an unusual profession.

Live this daily life again thanks to the former miners’ associations that offer guided tours, such as the Rodolphe Group Association or the Kalivie Association.

Guided tours of the Carreau Rodolphe in Pulversheim:

Guided tours of the Carreau Joseph Else in Wittelsheim: Wednesdays from 9am to 12pm (03 89 55 13 27)