Visitors to Bex, 20 km south of Montreux, are able to see Switzerland’s only working salt mine as well as extensive displays illustrating the history of the salt industry in the region. In the 17th century invaders from the canton of Berne began to produce salt at Bex by evaporating brine, and mining on a large scale began in the 1680s. A new company, Les Mines et Salines de Bex was established in 1867 to co-ordinate production in the face of competition from newly-opened saltworks in other parts of Switzerland. Ten years later the company began to produce salt by thermocompression, that is by bringing salt to the boil and compressing the resultant steam, a method that has been copied in many countries.
About 50 km of tunnels from old workings remain in the mountains. Visitors are taken into the mine on a small train and are able to see an audio-visual presentation on the history of the workings in a round chamber that was excavated in 1826 to serve as a reservoir. The conservation of the mines is supported by a voluntary organisation, L’Association pour la mise en valeur des Mines de Sel de Bex, established in 1982.