In the Corbières, the Mouthoumet massif conceals many mining and metallurgical vestiges, traces of a bygone industrial past. Discover this little-known heritage on a circuit offered by the Mines en Corbières association, to be carried out by car or by bike for cyclists adept.
The exploitation of mines spread fromAntiquity to the second half of the XNUMXth century. The metals mainly concerned are iron, silver, copper, lead or antimony, not to mention barium in the form of barite. The processing of the ores was sometimes done on site, leaving remains still clearly visible today.
To know :
The circuit presented here is about 72 km from the village of Cascastel-Des-Corbières (reference point for the distances indicated, possibility of shortening the route by continuing towards Palairac at the Col de Ferréol). It can be done by car or by bike, these small roads in the Hautes Corbières are ideal for the practice of sports cycle tourism (drop 1020 meters). For an eco-friendly outing, this is the perfect opportunity to test the rental of the Villerouge-Termenès electric car!
Cascastel-des-Corbières and its castle
Meet at the Place du Cascastel Castle (point n ° 1). The recently renovated 1726th century facade houses a sumptuous "plaster room" which served as a living room for Lord Joseph-Gaspard Pailhoux de Cascastel (1808-1872). You will find this character several times, who has become a mining operator, during your journey. To the left of the base of the tower, through an opening with a grid, you will discover a construction in fine local sandstone equipment that can be attributed to Rémy Jacomy, master of forges and owner of the castle (1882-XNUMX).
It is possible to visit the gypsum room du château by appointment, by contacting the Friends of the Château de Cascastel association. More info here.
Leave Cascastel heading towards Albas on the D106.
From Albas to Villerouge-Termenès, the Fourques site
Cross Albas direction Villerouge-Termenès by the D40: you go up towards the mining territory. At km 6,2, park on the left side (point n ° 2). Towards the south, the wooded reliefs constitute the first slopes of the Lacamp plateau. This plateau, established on ancient land from the Primary era, has many many iron mines. On the left and behind your back, the sparsely wooded land with colored and straightened strata, are more recent (Secondary and Tertiary)… and without mines. Continue on your way to Villerouge-Termenès.
Still on the D40, starting from the old Saint Rome farm (barn, point n ° 3), you can discover the 2.5 km thematic trail passing through the old fortified building of Fourques. You are here in the Sensitive Natural Space of Saint-Rome-Fenouillères, owned by the Department of Aude. Dating from the XNUMXth century, it is probably a fortified storage room. At the rear of the building, on the slope, under the limestone tuff rocks, stretches a ferrier dating from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth centuries. Ferriers are piles of slag (waste) from the processing of iron ore.
Villerouge-Termenès and the coat of arms of Dagobert
When you arrive in Villerouge-Termenès, park in the car park in front of the old cooperative cellar (km 15). Walk down to the entrance to the castle.
About twenty meters before this, take a small lane to the right towards the "Placette". You will discover a house adorned with a coat of arms (point n ° 4). It's that of Luc Simeon Auguste Dagobert de Fontenille. Hero of the Revolution, this Brigadier General was Pailhoux de Cascastel's partner for the exploitation of the Corbières iron mines. Military above all, he housed his Intendant des Mines in this building built in 1780.
Félines-Termenès station and cable car
Take the road to Félines-Termenès via the D613. After crossing the village, at km 17,8, you will notice a large esplanade on the left (point n ° 5). This is the old railway station where were stationed before the war (39-45) two locomotives dedicated to transporting ore. The large stone building, to the right of the small tower (water reserve for the steam train), was the cable car terminal who delivered the iron-ore from the Monthaut mine (5 km away, in the town of Palairac).
Mining sites scattered throughout the Hautes Corbières
On leaving the village, turn left towards Palairac / Tuchan (D39). Leave Davejean on the right and continue towards Palairac / Tuchan. At km 21,2, just after a small bridge, park on the right side of the road (point n ° 6). You are in the middle of a important ironmonger, vestige of an iron and steel workshop from Roman times. There is slag everywhere, especially in the ditch by the roadside.
Continue until after the Couize pass (km 23,9, point n ° 7). In good weather, an impressive panorama offers a breathtaking view over this part of the Corbières up to the Pyrenees chain. We distinguish the Quéribus castles et Peyrepertuse. Under your feet is the main silver mine in Corbières, often cited in texts in the Middle Ages.
Below, you can see an old electrical post. It is the only vestige of a small antimony ore processing plant built in 1938. Continue for 1,2 km and take the herringbone path to the right (watch out for the maneuver). Park 100 m away, after the hairpin bend, in front of the fire hydrant (point 8). You are on the old one Bousole mining site (antimony) where the remains have practically disappeared. From 1838 to 1842, the ore was intensively extracted which was sent to Carcassonne on the backs of mules for processing (separation of antimony and lead). At Ferréol pass turn right towards Maisons (D123). In Maisons, continue towards Padern. Park at the Maisons-Padern-Montgaillard crossroads (km 30,8, point n ° 9). Look south at the hill in the background, you will see the Saint Estève site : it is a mine exploited in the XNUMXth century for the barite, but for the copper et money in older times.
Go down towards Padern until km 32,6 (point n ° 10). On your left the old forges of Montgaillard (private site), built in the 35,5th century for the processing of iron ore. Continue in the Torgan gorges until km 11 (point n ° XNUMX); park on the widening on the right. The valley which extends it had a barite enrichment plant that was extracted a little higher up. This is the Tistoulet mine which closed its doors in 1932. Here too, the activity began in Antiquity for the extraction of copper and lead.
The Catalan Forge of Padern and the hamlet of Ségure
Pass through the village of Padern on your way to Tuchan. Under the courtyard of the school (Town Hall), there is a plaster cast (late 12th century) which shows a section of the Tistoulet Mine (point n ° XNUMX). Continue towards Tuchan. In the Verdouble gorges, at km 42, park on the widening on the right (point n ° 13). Below you will see buildings: these are the remains of the Catalan forge built by Pailhoux de Cascatel in 1779. In this forge were manufactured cannon balls for the Spanish Civil War (1794) led by General Dagobert.
Cross Tuchan and take the direction of Palairac (D39). At hamlet of Ségure (km 52, point n ° 14), you will find on the left the "Theater of Ségure". This is an old forge (blacksmith) which dates from the exploitation of the coal mines of the same place. The next building, by the side of the road, was the miners' accommodation (private). In the XNUMXth century, the coal of Ségure would have been used for firing bricks for the fortifications of Vauban in the Eastern Pyrenees.
Palairac and the Lacamp plateau
Take the road back to Palairac. In the village, do not hesitate to visit Saint Saturnin's church (point n ° 15): a village legend reports that, following his visit to the La Canal silver mine, Louis XIV would have offered the baroque furniture of the church...
The village is also the starting point of the hiking loop The Forgotten Iron of the Lacamp Plateau. Dotted with thematic panels, it allows you to learn more about the mining past of this sector of the Hautes Corbières.
Go back to Quintillan (D123). You walk along the Lacamp plateau and its iron mines to the northwest, but that's not all!
Before Quintillan, at km 65 (point n ° 16), you can see, to the left, above the first vineyard and to the right of a path, the gray dumps (operating cuttings poor in ore) of the Feugerolles antimony mine, operated by the Pailhoux family and which was the site of a dramatic accident in 1809.
Continue until you find the starting point at Cascastel-Des-Corbieres.
Warning: do not leave the indicated circuit and do not go to these sites without being accompanied.
For any information, contact Mines en Corbières: firstname.lastname@example.org
To know everything about this little-known past, we recommend the book Corbières Mines.