The locals have called Trimouns “The White Mountain” for centuries. In the early 1800s, they would climb from the nearby village up to its peaks and collect its unique white rocks. From there, they’d load them onto the backs of mules and lead them down the 1,000 meters and 15 kilometers to their village in the Ax Valley in the Ariege region, along the French side of the Pyrenees mountain range. Once there, they’d use the flour mills to grind the soft rocks into a fine powder. Then it was back on the mules and off to the nearest big city of Toulouse, where they’d sell their wares to apothecaries and druggists.
In 1888, the merchants of the Ariege region began using ox carts; they were now able to transport much more of those prized rocks from The White Mountain at a time. And there was suddenly more demand. The railroad had arrived, connecting the Ariege and the Luzenac regions to everywhere else.
By 1908, the mine at Trimouns, doing business under Talc de Luzenac, was listed on the Paris stock exchange.
Today, if you look at a satellite photo of the site, you can see the huge expanse of white in the south of France, near the Spanish border. Its white is unlike any ski mountain, but just as beautiful as snow. Today, Trimouns is the largest talc quarry in the world.
Although talc mines are located around the world, the varieties of talc differ from each other and they’re each used for different commercial purposes. Some talcs are used to soften and improve the lather in your soap; others allow the powder in your makeup back to compress, retain color, and have a soft feel and matte effect. Talc is used in the manufacturing of ceramic tiles, pottery and tableware. It’s used in paper manufacturing to improve printability. It adds stiffness and dimensional stability to PVC and improves corrosion resistance in paints.
Much of the talc mined at Trimouns finds its way into bottles of talc’s most familiar and purest byproduct—baby powder.
But is baby powder, in fact, so pure?