Blegny-Mine : The story of a successful conversion of an industrial heritage : the coal mine of Argenteau-trembleur into a place of interset.
|Blegny-Mine today © Blegny-Mine|
The coal mine of Argenteau-Trembleur is situated in Blegny, in the North-East of Liège, in Belgium. Settled in the countryside of Herve on a 100 meters level above the river Meuse, it is the last coal granting in the North-East coal bassin.
Contrary to other operational headquarters, the mine of Argenteau-Trembleur is not very deep and some of the layers even outcrop in the neighbouring countryside.
The interest of this setting lies in the conversion into a leisure center and the preservation of the two pits from different periods (19th and 20th century). The most recent one is still in use for it gives access for the visitors to the underground galleries on the levels -30 and -60 meters.
|Overall view of the colliery in the 1930's © Blegny-Mine|
In Blegny, the coalworking starts in the 16th century under the impulse of the Monks of Val-Dieu, owners of the coal area.
The first granting, Trembleur, is allowed to Gaspar Corbesier in 1799. This marks the beginning of the industrial coal working. Corbesier's descendants get the granting Argenteau which is settled near Trembleur. both grantings are put together in 1883 and totalise 2,171 acres. In 1887 the activities stop fir 30 years and the company is put into liquidation.
In 1919, a new comany is created and the family Ausselet grounds the "Company of Argenteau". the production grows rapidly and reaches 84.000 tons in 1931 (compared to 10.000 tons before the first closure).
During the Second World War, the tour of the pit 1 and the coal-washing building are destroyed. Coal extraction still remains by using the "Pit Mary" but consequently with a lower rate of production. From 1942 till 1948 the pit and the wah-and-sorting building are reconstructed.
The production goes on, increases and reaches 232.000 tons for 680 mineworkers. In 1975, the Industrial ans Social Ministerial Committee of Belgium stops state grants to coal mines. In the region of Liège, the coal mines close one by one. The latest one "Argenteau-trembleur" closes on March 31st, 1980.
|The Pit n°1 installations at the end of 1970's © Blegny-Mine|
The story could end in 1980 and the coal mine could have become an industrial bur cancer. But the Provincial Authorities and in particular Governor Gilbert Mottard thought differently. He wished to preserve this testiminy of the coal miners in the area of Liège.
In 1978, the conversion is decided and the Province of Liège bought the spot in 1980. The first visitors arrived in June, 2 monhs after the stopping of the exploitation. The visiting tour was heightend because of a problem of pumping water.
The combined actions of the Province of Liège, the French communty, the Tourist Federation of Liège, the council authorities and two local associations lead to the regular grownth of the number of visitors (50.000 yearly).
In 1990, the European Fund Federation will even speed up the remodelling of the settings and contribute to the setup of a welcome infrastructure.
100.000 visitors came to Blegny-Mine the same year and in the next years? This brings the amount of visitors to more than 3 million in the last 35 years.
III. Recognition Unesco
Since July 2012, Blegny-Mine and the 3 others major mining sites in Wallonia (Grand-Hornu near Mons, Bois-du-Luc in La Louvière and Bois-du Cazier in Charleroi), are recognized by Unesco as World Heritage site.
The 4 sites have developed in close collaboration with the Administration of the Heritage, the Walloon Heritage Institute, and all the concerned authorities a management plan for the next fifteen years wich joins the guidelines of the Walloon Committee of world Heritage.
IV. Projects for the future
Energy Interpretation Centre
Blegny-Mine, in cooperation with the Blegny local authorities and with the support of the Proince of Liège and the Walloon region, is looking into the possibility of developing an energy interpretation centre, whose purpose will be to present coal in the more global context of the energy challenges of today and tomorrow.
Blegny-Mine is a member of the Route du Feu au Pays de Liège (The Liège Fire Route), the non-profits organisation Pays des Terrils, the Maison du Tourisme de la Basse-Meuse (The Basse-Meuse tourist Office), Wallonie-Bruxelles Tourisme (Wallonia-Brussels Tourism), the non-profits organisation P.I.W.B. (Patrimoine Industriel Wallonie-Bruxelles : Wallonia-Brussels Industrial Heritage), the non-profits organisation MSW (Museums and Society in Wallonia), the Association of industrial museums in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine, the PISTE networks (Patrimoine Industriel, Scientifique et Technique : Industrial, Scientific ans Technical Heritage), ERIH (European Routes of Industrial Heritage) and AICIM (Accès Informatisé aux Collections des Institutions Muséales : Computerised access to the museum institutions).