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The Great Saltworks


The Great Saltworks is a living testimony of the local industrial activity around salt in Franche-Comté.

 

The Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains – as well as the other saltworks in Franche-Comté – used saline water as raw material. Salt, or the so-called « White Gold », was obtained through an artificial evaporation process. In comparison, the water from the salt marshed evaporates naturally with the sun and the wind. « Salins-du-Jura » owns its reputation and its power from the Middle Ages on, as it used the salt the city exploited to trade. Varied techniques have succeeded one another in order to draw – and later on to pump – the brine. For several centuries, wood was used as fuel in order to achieve the evaporation porcess. However, due to an economic problem, it was replaced by coal at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1775, the royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans were erected by the visionary architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, on the edge of the Chaux forest (3rd hardwood forest in France). The Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans worked as complementary to the saltworks of Salins-les-Bains. The both saltworks were linked together by a double-pipe system (first wooden pipes and later on replaced by cast iron pipes) that were 21 kilometers long through which the brine would be sent from Salins-les-Bains to Arc-et-Senans. The saltworks of Arc-et-Senans closed in 1895. In 1962, the saltworks of Salins-les-Bains closed too, due to a lack of space, an evolution of techniques to make salt, and an evolution of the mode of food preservation, mainly the invention of refrigerators and freezers.

Since 1966, the saltworks became the property of Salins-les-Bains’s City Hall.

The resurgence of natural salt sources at the bottom of the valley is of geological origins : approximately 240 meters deep underground, there is a 40 meters thick layer of rock salt against which infiltrations due to the rain wash off and flow out at the surface, becoming natural salt water.

 

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