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.