Salt, one of the earth's ancient treasures, has been mined from underground mines in southern Poland since the 13th century. The oldest continually operating shaft in Europe was built in 1248 in the town of Bochnia in southern Poland, and is still accessible today. The mine was built and initially worked by industrious Cistercian monks, who arrived in Poland from France and were known for their progressive stance. The salt mine, as with all natural resources in Poland, was, in the past, owned by the ruling royalty. The mine thrived for eight centuries providing kings and state with significant wealth. Mining ceased about 15 years ago due to economic changes and the depletion of the salt resource. To preserve renown artwork, sacred objects, and well-preserved medieval mine workings, the mine was designated a museum. The healthful microclimate and idodine aerosol provide the ideal conditions for an undergorund sanatorium for patients with respiratory ailments. The adjacent spa is wideley-known for its baths with salt-solution microelements that are considered beneficial to human health. This fascinating historical mine museum, with numerous underground tourist trails, sanatorium and spa has become known internationally, and attracts tens of thousands of visitors yearly. Economically, the salt mine is an important sustainable income source for the City of Bochnia and the surrounding region.
R. S. Popielak and K. Zięba (2007). Medieval salt mine - A modern tourist attraction with an ancient history. In A.B. Fourie, M. Tibbett, & J. Wiertz (Eds.), Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Mine Closure. Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Santiago (pp. 869-877).