The building of the Tellure park is built on the very underground site where several lodes of silver were found in the 16th century, leading to what became known later as the “silver rush”. The Saint-Jean Engelsbourg silver mine, known as the “Column of Saint John”, is the largest hand-dug subterranean cavity in the Vosges mountains, with a dizzying height (180 m3).
9th and 10th centuries: The “official” discovery of the Saint John lode was first mentioned by monks from the valley, probably those from the priory in Lièpvre. It is presumed that the Romans were already aware of the presence of mines in the area (Romans in Alsace from -60 to 378).
Middle Ages (13th century): Small-scale exploitation of the ore with pits being dug from the surface. Stopped rapidly due to flooding problems.
15th and mainly 16th centuries: Growth of mine working thanks to the experience of seasoned miners from Saxony and Bohemia, new digging techniques that help “intensive” exploitation. Many other mines were opened in the area circa 1100. From 1530 to 1560, some 1500 kg of ore were extracted every year. For its part, the Saint John lode began to be exploited in 1549.
1618 to 1648: Thirty Years’ War, when Alsace was ravaged by war and the mines were plundered. Mining activity dropped suddenly. The Saint John lode was abandoned in 1635.
Work resumed in about 1711, but the structures were too submerged in water. Exploitation stopped again towards the end of the 18th century.
1897 to 1907: the mines were reopened by the Germans to extract cobalt, arsenic, and the little silver remaining (till then, only silver had been extracted). Activity stopped (once again) after a study estimated that the mines were depleted.
1930 to 1976: The French restarted exploitation at the end of the 1930s, claiming that the study by the Germans was mistaken. On 1 September 1939, World War II broke out, but mine exploitation only stopped finally on 10 May 1940, when the Germans attacked France. During the Occupation, the Germans did not resume work, and a brief attempt was made after the war.
The last mine to close officially in 1976 was a cobalt mine.
The human adventure and exceptional heritage is now open to visitors, after the Tellure mine park opened to the public in 2009