Lorraine iron ore was the first victim of globalisation long before this became a household word. It was known in the region as “minette” or “small ore” because of its low iron content – about 20-35% less than in "good iron", the so-called "fer fort". The streak of "minette" through the Lorraine basin between Nancy and the Luxembourg border was thirty kilometres wide. In the 1960s, time began to run out for "minette" when it was discovered that pure iron ore from Brazil, Australia, Canada and Sweden could be produced more conveniently and quickly. From then until the 1990s the ore mines in Lorraine were gradually shut down: the pit in Neufchef was closed in 1989 after operating for 150 years. But thanks to the initiative of former workers it has survived as a visitor mine.
Around the turn of the 20th century, iron ore was mostly mined by hand in narrow low gangways, with the help of gunpowder. The miners only began to use compressed air hammers to dig out the ore in inclined galleries supported by pit pillars. 35.000 pit workers in the Lorraine area, their faces stained yellow by the "minette", mined out the ore which was then hauled to the surface in wagons by horses; later by electric locomotives. After 1945 "Jumbo" chargers were introduced to drill blast holes. Excavators, wagon drills, compressed air chargers and locomotives now drove down into the pits.
In the old iron ore mine at Hameviller in the Saint Neige valley in Neufchef visitors pass by groups of miners houses on their way to a pool of locomotives, wagons and excavators with huge platters. Former colliers lead their guests along a one and a half kilometre path to the restored galleries of the demonstration mine that was in operation at the start of the 19th century. Here they are greeted by an arsenal of tools and equipment ranging from pickaxes to compressed air chargers, wagon tubs and an electric locomotive. The audio show recalls the time of the Lorraine "minette". In addition two exhibition rooms display further equipment and provide visitors with information on the geology of the region and its iron and steel industry. There is also a replica of a simple pub used by the miners at the end of their shift – as a foretaste of a visit to the open air playground and the museum restaurant.