Carmaux, a town with a population of 10,000 on the River Tarn in the Mid-Pyrenees, 80 km north of Toulouse, is the centre of a small coalfield, measuring only about 10 km X 3 km. The mines were developed from 1752 by the aristocratic Solages family, who in the 19th century installed steam engines and developed a glass industry. The miners of Carmaux went on strike in 1892 and were famously supported in their struggle against the Marquis de Solage by the socialist politician Jean Jaurès (1859-1914), who is commemorated by a statue in the town.
The mining museum at Cagnac les Mines, 10 km south of Carmaux, with a show mine in which visitors can go 350 m underground was opened in 2005.
The last of the mines closed in 1997 and the huge area – 650 ha – once occupied by the St Marie Mine at Blaye-les-Mines, to the south-west, is now used as an adventure park called La Grand Découverte opened in 2003. Within La Grand Découverte is an area called the Park of the Titans in which draglines and other colossal machines used in open-cast mining in the late 20th century are displayed.
There is also a glass museum at Carmaux (Musée du Verre) in a building called the ‘Orangerie’, not an appendage of an aristocratic mansion but a bottle factory opened by the Solages in the late 19th century.