LUZENAC IN ARIÈGE
Luzenac, in Ariège, capital of talcum powder
The village of Luzenac, 10 minutes from your Ariège La Marmotte campsite
Luzenac was probably originally occupied by farming estates, but there is no historical record of the village before 1074. This date corresponds to the donation of the Lordadais, one of the cantons of the Count of Foix, to the Abbey of Cluny. This small seigneury, where a “castella” once stood on the site of Sourtadeil, was home to around a hundred inhabitants. Today, the castrum no longer exists. For many centuries, the village was sustained by agrosilvicultural and pastoral activities, before developing around slate quarries and “Catalan” forges powered by the water power generated by the numerous water mills on the Ariège.
In 1848, 126 inhabitants of Luzenac and Unac formed a syndicate to acquire mountain land, including woodland, and this joint ownership of communal property still persists today.
Luzenac in Ariège, capital of talcum powder
Talc is a natural mineral. It is found as a soft, friable rock whose veins run beneath the Tabes mountain range at “Troumns”, where silica and magnesium have aggregated to form hydrated magnesium silicate (talc). Talc was already mined by hand in the 19th century by men who scraped the surface of the ground to obtain blocks of talc, which they transported to Toulouse, where it was sold to drugstores in the regional capital.
But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Luzenac really began to grow economically, thanks to talc production, which brought prosperity and population growth. Société anonyme des Talcs was created in 1905 and a factory was set up on the site of the Labail mill, before moving to the current site in 1913.
In its early industrial days, talc was produced by the Société des Talcs, in a small family factory. Today, after just over a century in business, Société Anonyme des Talcs is a major global group with around 350 employees.
Visit to the Trimouns quarry site
The Trimouns quarry stretches for 2 km and is one of the largest in the world. Being an open-pit mine, it ceases to operate during the winter, from December to March. The talc ore is extracted from a vein under the ground at around 1,000 m, thanks to the incessant ballet of hydraulic shovels digging up the earth, bulldozers and trucks moving tons of earth (for 1 ton of ore, 8 tons of earth have to be moved). As soon as the talc is extracted, automatic sorting selects the purest, brightest white talc.
The ropeway then transports the water via 5 km of cables to the Luzenac treatment plant, 1000 m below.
Don’t hesitate to visit this original and unusual industrial site in the Ax valley, during your summer stay at the Savignac les Ormeaux “Les Marmottes” campsite.