Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin
The Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin is a mining and industrial cultural landscape along a 120km long coal seam in the far north of France.
It was created from the 18th to the 20th centuries, mostly after France lost its access to Belgian mines in 1815. It reached its peak in the 1930s, when it became one the leading coal-production regions in Europe. It then attracted 75,000 foreign workers. The last mine in the area closed in 1990.
This is a serial site consisting of 109 parts, spread out over 13 mining company complexes. Elements include pits, slag heaps, railway stations and mining villages with schools, religious and community buildings.
Visit December 2011
This is the French nomination for 2012: a stretch of 120km in the North of the country comprising various mining sites. When I was sent to attend a course at the Capgemini University just north of Paris, I thought it a fine opportunity to take this possible new WHS in on my way back home.
I went to visit the Historic Mining Center in Lewarde, the main museum in the area. It is surprising how little in the surroundings reminds of the mining era. Nothing like the raw industrial beauty of the Ruhrgebiet just over the border in Germany. It just looks like a quiet rural setting. Coal was mined here from the 18th century til the 1970s. The harsh working and living conditions were immortalized in Emile Zola's Germinal, which happens to be one of my favourite 19th century novels.
The mining center is pretty large and modern, though not yet well-equipped to receive visitors that do not speak French. Also, at the exhibitions I did not find anything that I had not seen before at similar sites around the world. It indeed is a big question what the OUV of this site is, and the short description at the Unesco website does not help to clarify it. What I've learned while researching it on the internet, is that this probably will be a serial nomination with single monuments scattered along the whole 1200 km2. It is marketed as an "evolved cultural landscape", as the mono-industry of coal mining has lastingly transformed the landscape and the lifestyles of the inhabitants.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Alan Murray (Australia):|
Miners' Centre, Lewarde, France -
As an Australian coal mining historian I attended the 2010 Lewarde Colloquium. This centre is an absolute marvel in terms of its presentation of the life and hard times of coal miners and their communities. It is a living link with Zola's Germinal. It is well-managed, welcoming and not to be missed.
For professional mining historians, students or family visitors, Lewarde is a treasure and a credit to all who continue to remind us of the debt the present owes to the past.
Alan Murray, Australia.
| Date posted: September 2012|
Have you been to Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin? Share your experiences!
Add your own review