Le Pradet lies east of Toulon on France’s Mediterranean coast near Cape Garonne. In 1857, Layet et Martel, coal dealers of Marseilles, gained the right to prospect for copper and lead ores in local sandstone quarries and were subsequently granted concessions to mine. Extraction began in 1862. The first skilled miners were Italians but local men were employed on unskilled work. The copper ore proved to be of poor quality, most of it little more than 3 per cent copper. The ore was sent to Swansea, then the principal copper-smelting centre in Europe. The venture passed into the control of other companies, but it was closed for eight years from 1884. It was revived in 1893 by the Société des Mines de Cap Garonne, who employed 60 workers, and extracted sulphates for acid production rather than ores. In spite of a railway connection completed in 1903 the mines were closed for nine years from 1907, and a short revival in 1916 was followed by the final closure of the venture in 1917. Some 40,000 tonnes of minerals were removed between 1862 and 1917.
Between 1933 and 1956 the underground workings were used spasmodically for mushroom-growing. The local authorities began to protective work on the site in 1990 and on 9 July 1994 it opened as a museum. Visitors are able to see where miners worked, as well as some of the remarkable minerals found in the workings, as well as to enjoy panoramic views across the Mediterranean.