The area around Saint Etienne was for several centuries one of the principal sources of in France, and that coal was the basis of the city’s notable textile and engineering industries. The last mine ceased production in 1984, but visitors can experience the area’s mining heritage at the Couriot pit that worked between 1913 and 1972, and was one of the first in France where the surface machinery was operated by electric power. The site is dominating by a lofty steel headframe.
The museum offers a demonstration gallery on the surface, some 350 m long, where visitors, after passing through the room where miners changed into their working cloths (la salle des pendus) and the baths, can ride on a train of the kinds used to take miners from the shaft bottom to the coalface, and can see the conveyors used in twentieth century mines and the machines used for cutting coal. The winding engine can be inspected, together with the generating station that supplied it with power, and an audiovisual programme tells the story of mining in the region.