By 1830 when iron and later steel became important in Wallonia the Belgian coal industry had long been established, and used steam engines for pumping. The Belgian coalfield lay near the navigable River Meuse, so coal was shipped downstream to the ports and cities of the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta.
By 1890, annual coal production had already reached some 20 million tonnes.
The S.A. Charbonnages André Dumont Sous-Asch was founded on 18.06.1907 and would operate the mine of Waterschei in the Kempen heathlands . The mine was installed in the extreme west of the concession because the municipality of As had denied the plants to come on its territory. While a few days later, ie 22.06.1907, the founded AA Charbonages Limburg Meusa would operate concessions Sinte Barbara Guillaume Lambert by an extractionseat in Eisden.
In 1909, in Waterschei, they began to drill the technically difficult holes, of the high risk of water breakthrough . It was a very painstaking work but ir. Achille Ampe and other ingenieurs were confident that the calculations and expectations to find the black gold or coal would soon be met. It was only in 1921 that the first coal layer could be found, at a depth of 658 meters . On 27.07.1923 followed the establishment of the S.A. Charbonnages d’Houthalen.
It took until 1917 that the first mine was really established in Limburg, Winterslag became one of several in Genk alone. At its height, it employed 6,250 miners, many of whom came from Italy, Greece and Turkey for the express purpose of working in the mines.
Between 1952 and 1953, national coal production peaked at 30 million tonnes, but coal production began to decline in the 1960s and an announced reorganisation of the Belgian coal mines in 1965 resulted in strikes and a revolt which lead to the death of two coal miners in 1966 at the Zwartberg mine. Coal was mined in the Liege basin until 1980, Winterslag finally closed in 1988, in the Southern Wallonian basin closer was met in 1984, and in the Campine basin in 1992 with Belgium’s last colliery at Heusden-Zolder ceasing production. Although not currently economic to exploit, remaining hard coal resources are estimated to be 4,100 million tonnes. In 1993, the remaining buildings of Waterschei were classified as protected monuments.
— Whilst coal is no longer mined in Belgium, imported coal remains an important energy source for the steel industry and for power generation. Net imports in 2010 totalled around 3 million tonnes, coming mainly from the USA, South Africa and Australia (more coal is imported into Antwerp for onward delivery to customers in other EU countries). Coal provides less than 5% of Belgium’s primary energy supply. —
Between 1901 and 1992, the area evolved from nothing to modern economic hub, but just as quickly threatened the pendulum to go back in the opposite direction. What once belonged to the most modern factory infrastructure, threatened nearly 100 years later to be reduced to worthless scrap.
The thick coal seams deep underground would not only change the entire landscape, but also bring other people with other cultures to the region.Belgium could not offer enough workers to go underground so the mine directors had to go and look for them in other countries. To find enough labourers the mines offered concurrent extras for the labourers with social housing, food tickets, showers and many facilities in the environment of the mines.
At the beginning the underground workers were not so appreciated by the local inhabitants, but after some years the different Eastern Europeans brought in from 1920, followed by Italians, Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese could form the first multicultural society in Belgium. Later, Turks and Moroccans joined the bunch of hard labourers who had left their home country to find a better life over here. At first some of them had dreamt to go back, but after a while they found out that they had become a stranger in their home country as well. They did not seem to belong any more to one particular country. In 1900 the population density of Genk was 29 people per square kilometer in 1967, there were 524.
In 1953 Waterschei could employ 6 250 miners and in 1967 it could capture 1,635,514 tons of coal and present its annual production record. Four months before the final conclusion a new production record could be reached at Winterslag in the weeks before December 4, 1987. Though coal production had begin to decline in the 1960s, and Winterslag finally closed in 1988.
The bureaucratic mill turned very slowly in Belgium, so many beautiful buildings got to decay palsy. But eventually there could still be found common sense to see that it was high time to give more attention to the wonderful heritage for the future. In 1993, the remaining buildings were classified as protected monuments. Because it took such a long time, a lot of damage was done and will take some more years to bring everything in order again.
On the foundations of the mine of Winterslag, the city of Genk in 2005 got to create a site that has the ambition to stimulate creativity. They created C-mine to become a meeting place for people who want to be stimulated in their professional lives or in their free time by various forms of creativity and creative innovation. C-mine will bring vitality and new experience opportunities while it stimulates curiosity and challenge to new discoveries.
On September 4, 2008 could then Flemish MEP and Mayor of Kapellen, Dirk van Mechelen officially announce that he, on behalf of the Flemish region, could give a premium for a new phase in the restoration of this beautiful coalmine Winterslag.
After having given the formal launch for the next phase of the redevelopment of the multi-purpose and multi-cultural “C-MINE” pit head frames (the oldest and the youngest shaft tower in the province, respectively from 1915 and 1963), could bring a cultural centre with a reborn heart.
The main building, called the Energie gebouw (Energy Building), houses the visitor centre, cultural centre, gallery space and a café. All of this is nestled in and among industrial artefacts such as the old compressor room, where huge machines still crouch in a vast tile-floored hall; side rooms housing giant wheels that powered the coal lifts; and the circuit room, full of vintage electrical equipment and 19th-century decorative ironwork.
They made work of the external restoration of the building and machine building, restoration and redevelopment of the lamp room, bathrooms resulting to the cinema complex, which was the first business partner to open its doors at C-Mine with Euroscoop in 2005.
Since then, the site has seen the opening of the MAD-Faculty (Media, Arts and Design school), a performing arts centre and a visitor centre. In 2010, renowned Flemish ceramicist Pieter Stockmans (born in nearby Leopoldsburg) opened his studio and showroom in the mine’s former metal warehouse.
The former mine offices now house the Centre for Creative Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which supports creative business development. Digital marketing agency Nascom is based there, and other new media companies may soon follow, thanks to a public-private initiative led by Microsoft and local government. The Microsoft Innovation Centre aims to promote Flanders as a centre of information technology.
In 2010, C-Mine received the European Stars Award for best brownfield development, for revitalising a former industrial site that had fallen into disuse.
The mining sites of Limburg are a unique part of the region’s cultural heritage: Most of Europe’s former mines have disappeared, so places like Winterslag offer a rare view into Belgium’s mining past.
First one of the oldest mines in Belgium with its working class district, built between 1838 and 1853, was saved through the determination of the inhabitants and offers also a reconstruction of the coalminers their former way of life, a 1900 classroom, the Castelain gallery, the Pit Saint Josef and a 1850 house, at the coal-mine of Bois-du-Luc.
C-mine expedition offers in Genk an ‘exhaustable’ climax – an impressive ventilator introduces you to a special journey through subterranean tunnels, which ends at the amazing Cultural Odor Generator of scent-artist Peter De Cupere.
The “experience pathway” starts in the Energy Building, descends underground through old mine shafts and finally ascends to the plaza outside, where visitors can climb to the top of the highest head frame in Belgium. (The head frame was the tall structure above the mine shaft that housed the lift mechanism.)
There they will enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding area from a height of 60 metres. For those who don’t aspire to such heights, there is another viewing platform at 15 metres.
As visitors wend their way through the underground tunnels of Expedition, they will encounter “memory tubes” and hear stories about the mine and its workers. Aspiring recording artists can create their own sound mix using authentic mine sounds, and a panoramic viewer offers a glimpse back in time of the surrounding terrain.
An underground gallery space will house changing art exhibitions. The first of these is an installation created especially for the opening by scent artist Peter Decupere. Visitors will be invited to create their own smell using his Cultural Odour Generator.
The Mine Depot, which is run by former miners and maintains a permanent exhibition and conducts tours of some of the old shafts of the Waterschei site. This Summer it brings the latest edition of one of the top three contemporary arts exhibitions in Europe – the other two being the Venice biennial and the five-yearly Documenta in Kassel, Germany (which is also taking place now). Manifesta 9, however, is the only one that is nomadic; it is staged in a different city every two years, a “pop-up” biennial, if you will.
This makes Manifesta an event that is ever-changing and dynamic – never allowed to fall into a pattern – but it also comes with the difficult challenge of attracting new visitors with every edition. “Manifesta all has to happen in a single moment,” comments this edition’s chief curator Cuauhtémoc Medina. “Unlike in Venice, Istanbul or São Paulo, there is no audience growing around it.”
Medina is an art historian from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City and worked on Manifesta with two co-curators – Dawn Ades of the British Academy and Katerina Gregos, based in Brussels. Manifesta recruits a completely new curatorial team for each edition, contributing even more to its great diversity in form and expression.
What sets Manifesta further apart from its contemporaries is its geo-political, socio-economic focus. The Amsterdam-based foundation was established in 1996 to specifically address the questions of a European identity. “We investigate political climate, cultural identity, geo-politics, technology and the status of Europe itself,” explains Manifesta director Hedwig Fijen. “We closely watch social and political developments throughout Europe.”
In other words, Manifesta, unlike similar initiatives, is not a platform to explore the status of contemporary art; it’s a platform to explore the status of Europe through contemporary art. Having been previously staged in cities like Rotterdam, Murcia and Ljubljana, the event avoids the main economic and cultural centres to immerse itself in areas that are current examples of a Europe challenged by expansion, economic urgencies and an industrial landscape in upheaval. Which took them right to the city of Genk.
Manifesta co-curator Katerina Gregos explains the choice for the Campine site: “Genk is one of the three most important industrial regions in Flanders and forms a kind of general access to the southern part of Belgium – the former coal mining and steel works in the Borinage – and connects to the Aachen region in Germany and also symbolically to Britain. So that whole region was the industrial heartland of Europe prior to the process of de-industrialisation that happened since the 1960s onwards.”
In the 1950s, Greek labourer Spyros Roumeliotiso, like so many other southern Europeans, travelled to Genk to work in the coal mines. In his pocket was a photo – or rather, half a photo. He and his wife had torn apart a portrait of the two of them. He had the half with her image, and, back in Greece, she kept the half with his. When they were reunited in Genk, they sewed the two pieces of the photo back together with yarn.
This creased and stained photograph, taken in 1952 and no larger than a few square centimetres, came from the son of those immigrants, who still lives in Genk. When he saw the little photo of his parents in its grand and dignified setting at the Manifesta biennial inside a former mine site in his own city, he broke down in tears.
There are many examples of how the Manifesta biennial can leave a lasting impression on a city and its residents, but it’s difficult to find one more relevant than that when it comes to Genk. Manifesta, the only European arts biennial that travels to different cities, chose Genk not despite its coal-mining heritage but specifically because of it.
The origins of Manifesta as an international art event are embedded in the social and political changes that occurred in Europe in the 1990s. The seeds of Manifesta were first sown during the time of geo-political imbalance in Europe, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 reunited the previously separated East and West. So Manifesta was initiated
in the early 1990s by fifteen European countries and their national arts councils, who no longer accepted that artistic practices in different parts of Europe could be detached from one another.
Manifesta originated from a desire to unravel the complex nature of the DNA of contemporary culture in Europe, by proposing an artistic event which could critically incorporate social and geo-political issues, while analysing notions of place, history, identity and urban concerns. Context and flexibility have been the keys from the start. Every two years Manifesta is substantially reinvented, embedding itself in a new host region, within a limited time frame. It is important to note that as a nomadic event, Manifesta often focuses its research on the periphery of Europe, in close dialogue with established art circles.
In these borderline zones, it investigates changes in political climate, cultural identity, geopolitics, technology and the status of Europe itself. It looks at how artists respond creatively to these changes. Based on this research, a host city is selected. Set up as a dynamic, transparent and elastic initiative, Manifesta closely watches social and political developments throughout Europe.
Manifesta has understood that the past could actually be more up-to-date than the present. This idea is no revelation, it might even be considered obvious, but it needs maturity to express this deeply. With its 9th edition, Manifesta has reached maturity.
The main building of the the mine—officially known as the André Dumont mine, named after the discoverer of coal in Limburg, André Dumont-sous-Asch—was completed in 1924. the setting for Manifesta 9. An old and historic place, within the larger Thor Park Technological Complex, opens up for contemporary art this Summer. Because it is not such good weather this year, it may be an ideal occasion to go and visit the region and the exhibition.
Manifesta 9 not only pays attention to emerging contemporary art, but also shines a light on the Campina region’s cultural heritage and the transformation from present to future, which is so important for the city of Genk.
The mining region still has many “witnesses” to its special past: local history clubs, heritage experts and volunteers dedicate much time and passion to the many facets of Genk’s legacy. Manifesta 9 makes use of their carefully archived records in an original and surprising way, especially because the stories of objects also tell us the stories of people. Manifesta 9 has succeeded in closely involving the inhabitants of Genk and beyond.
Characteristic of all buildings on the mining site—designed by Gaston Vautquenne—was the art deco architectural style, its showpiece being the main building with an impressive tower (a “cathedral of industry”). It was used by miners, administrative staff as well as managers. With a total surface area of 23,000 m2, the four-story building accommodated offices, meeting rooms, wash areas, changing rooms, equipment depots, etc. It had a highly functional layout, with a green left wing for the miners and a yellow right wing for the administrative staff.
Nowadays very little of the main building’s original layout has survived; only the color scheme remains. Desks, furniture, showers, equipment, etc. have all been removed to facilitate a quick and efficient re-exploitation. Different views on possible future uses have left a stripped interior. Most of the walls have been taken down; what remains is a bare
concrete skeleton. There are still some traces of the imposing art deco interior, but it takes a lot of imagination to picture the original building in use.
One of the floors of the main building houses the Mijndepot, an exhibition taken care of by a non-profit organization of former miners, giving a picture of Limburg’s coalmining history and of the hard work of the miners in the pit. After Manifesta 9, the main building and other remaining structures will be redeveloped as part of a master plan to create Thor
Park, a business and science complex focusing on innovation and knowledge.
The Deep of the Modern intends to create a complex dialogue between different layers of art, heritage and history. Its point of departure is the geographical location itself, the former coalmining region of the Campine in northeastern Belgium. A locus for different
imaginary and ecological issues aligned to industrial capitalism as a global phenomenon. Manifesta 9 takes its cue from the previously abandoned, recently restored Waterschei mine complex in Genk, Limburg, which is the main venue of Manifesta 9. It is part of an all-encompassing geographic/ecological “mining machine,” (Peter Bongaerts) a landscape made up from the multi-layered combinations of garden cities, urban planning, factories, canals, roads and railroads built to serve the coal-mining industry throughout the
The Deep of the Modern has been developed in three sections: contemporary works, icons of art history specifically inspired by the coal or its broader influence, and a series of exhibitions tracing the coalmining heritage of the region. At a critical level, The Deep of the Modern maintains that art production and historical knowledge have inborn responsibilities in terms of aesthetics, social reflection and relationships between different generations. In this sense, the exhibition encourages the viewer to become involved in the careful consideration of artworks, images, historical information and cultural institutions, and how these might affect modern and post-industrial ways of thinking. This event investigates how art and culture are essential to the way social processes can both
record and transform the outlook of specific groups in society. Using different poetic approaches and methods of representation, Manifesta 9 provides the means for greater social and historical understanding.
The Deep of the Modern has been developed as a dialogue between three different sections.
1. Poetics of Restructuring: Contemporary Art A selection of artistic responses (39 artists in total) to the changes incurred to the production system around the world.
2. The Age of Coal: The Art Historical Section A selection of artworks from the nineteenth to the early twenty-first century reflecting on the profound influence of coal, as the main source of energy during the Industrial Revolution, on the history of modern art.
3. 17 Tons: The Heritage Section 17 Tons investigates the cultural production that
sprang up in Europe after the closure of the mines in the second half of the twentieth century.
The mayor of the town is convinced that Manifesta 9 will put his city and the Euroregion of Limburg on the map of contemporary art, and help to highlight and develop the entire Euroregion as an attractive, dynamic hub for visitors, artists and entrepreneurs alike.
I can assure every reader that they not only should restrict their visit to Belgium by enjoying Bruges. This country has so much more to offer. The coal-mine heritage is one of the patrimony worth visiting and offering you a wide scale of beautiful views and enjoyable moments.
Previous Dutch articles on this subject:
- Coal Mines in Belgium source for Emile Zola
some descendants of miners now living in Belgium and in North America have confirmed that many of the conditions and events Zola described were similar to those witnessed by their family members.
- This is Belgium- coal-mines in Limburg
- Coal-mine of Bois-du-Luc
- Eisden Coal Mines
- The European Association for Coal and Lignite – EURACOAL
- Flemish Coal Mining Museum Vlaams Mijnmuseum, Koolmijnlaan 201, 3582 Beringen
- The Borinage region
The Borinage is the name of an industrial region in the Belgian province of Hainaut, surrounding Mons and extending to the French border. Traditionally a coal-mining district, most of the mines have been closed. Glass-making and metallurgy are the now the region’s primary industries.
+ Misère au Borinage
- Blegny mine
- Genk klaar voor start Manifesta (video’s + fotoalbum)
- Manifest destiny Europe’s only roving arts biennial opens in Genk
- Manifesta 9
- Manifest 9 Opens in Waterschei, Genk, Belgium
- Beeld van de week: opening Manifesta 9
- Beeld van de week: Manifesta 9 in Dag Limburg
- Manifesta 9, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and RAY 2012: Europe’s art summer
- Manifesta 9 artist list released
- Manifesta 9: Nomadic Identity and Transcultural Art
- Manifesta Journal
- The Deep of the Modern
- Manifesta 9: The Deep of the Modern
Ashington Group, a collective of a few dozen miners, Rocco Granata, Christian Boltanski, David Hammons, Rossella Biscotti, Alberto Cavalcanti, Edward Burtynsky, Paolo Woods, Ni Haifeng, Igor Grubic, Mikhsil Karikis and Uriel Orlow
- Parallel events of Manifesta 9
- ‘Parallel Events Manifesta 9 : Manifestly Present / ManifestAanwezig’, Kesteel Oud Rekem (BE)
- Expo ‘CARBON PRINT’ in Dag Limburg
- Manifesta 9 StampMedia – Sarah Cops, Katrien Vandevenne
- Queen Paola of Belgium visits Manifesta 9
- Manifesta, the roving European Biennial of Contemporary art
- Ovver Kunst in Limburg: Manifesta 9
- Thijs de Lange Fotos van Manifesta 9
- Manifesta 9 takes visitors into The Deep of the Modern
- @ Manifesta 9
Nemanja Cvijanovic – Monument to the Memory of the Idea of the Internationale, 2010
This was the most pervasive piece in the whole exhibition, since there was this massive sound system outside the building broadcasting every time a visitor used the music box.
- Kunsthart op Manifesta Hart International Manifesta 9 Gazes Into ‘The Deep Of The Modern’
- Manifest destiny (flanderstoday.eu)
Europe’s only roving arts biennial opens in Genk
- Patriot Coal Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection (wsaz.com)
Patriot Coal Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Monday afternoon.St. Louis-based Patriot Coal operates mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.
- Coal Mine Explosion Kills at Least 7 in China (theepochtimes.com)
A coal mine explosion killing at least 7 miners on July 8 was triggered by a coal and gas outburst, according to authorities via state-run media Xinhua. Outbursts are violent ejections of coal and gas from freshly exposed surfaces. Local officials said 39 miners escaped unhurt, but could not determine how many more remained trapped underground.
- Operation to rescue trapped miners called off in Meghalaya (thehindu.com)
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team on Friday called off the operation to rescue 15 miners trapped in a flooded coal pit in Meghalaya since July 6, 2012 an official said.The miners got trapped in a mine in South Garo Hills district last Thursday after they accidentally punctured the wall of an abandoned mine, filling their mine with gallons of water.
- Coal Mining in the US Industry Market Research Report Now Available from IBISWorld (prweb.com)
The Coal Mining industry has reached for the depths over the five years to 2012, with revenue expected to grow at an average 7.1% annually to $52.2 billion. Higher prices for coal have underpinned this trend as strong demand from steel production abroad and moderate increases in electricity demand push prices up. According to IBISWorld industry analyst Brian Bueno, emerging economies are demanding metallurgical coal (i.e. coal needed for steel production) at accelerating rates as these countries grow rapidly and invest in their infrastructure. As these countries ramp up the steel production needed for these projects, significant upward pressure has been placed on metallurgical coal, positively influencing revenue over the five-year period.
- Gunvor Welcomes New Kolmar CEO(prnewswire.com)
Gunvor Group Ltd today welcomed the new Chief Executive Officer of Kolmar Management Company LLC, Andrey Churin, a leading coal industry professional, who began the position on 3 July 2012.
- NDRF launches operation to rescue trapped miners (thehindu.com)
Mineral-rich Meghalaya does not have a mining policy and coal and other minerals are being extracted by mine owners using the rat-hole method without any mechanism to ensure the safety of miners.Villages in the coal belt in the state are virtually standing on a network of underground trenches dug to mine coal.
- The United Mineworkers talk to IrishCentral and put a face on the war on coal(irishcentral.com)
Irish immigrants were key in the founding of UMWA. They foreshadowed it when they introduced to the mid 1800 coal fields, the Molly Maguire’s, a secret society brought over from Ireland. The Molly Maguire’s fought back with their own form of vengeance against the brutal tactics imposed on them by industrialists. These industrialists had little respect for the danger & miserable working conditions they imposed on the miners.Today’s UMWA, is a result of thousands of men and women who lost their lives giving America the energy it needed and fighting every step of the way for rights of the working person in a dangerous industry.
- Coal no longer king of the power industry(dailyenergydump.com)
An interesting opinion piece in MarketWatch today spells out what we seem to be tip-toeing around: not only is the coal industry in a deep funk, it may never recover.
“The subsequent flood of cheap, abundant gas is crushing gas prices — which hit a 10-year low in April — and profit margins. It’s also crushing demand for coal. Power plants that can switch to gas are doing so, driving down the cost of power generation.
“The flip side, of course, is hard times in the mines,” the article said.
- GVK may get nod for Australian coal project (thehindu.com)
Referring to the environmental nod given by the Queensland Government, the Australian mining magnate said there was no instance of the Australian federal authorities not granting approval for a project after the State Government cleared it. Observing that it was good to hear assurances from the Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke, she said the federal clearance was expected by the end of this month or early August.
- Black Lung Cases on the Rise, Miners Demand Increased Safety Regulation (smartsign.com)
Cases of Black Lung Disease, or Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis, have nearly doubledsince the 1990s. Not recognized or well understood until the 1950s, Black Lung disease looked to be curtailed by regulations implemented in the mid-1970s — but a recent study proves that it may be experiencing a resurgence at coal mining sites in the United States. The most severe cases have occurred in the Appalachia region between eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia.
- Seven Chinese miners die (bigpondnews.com)
Four miners have been lifted to safety in central China, while seven workers in another mine have been killed by a burst of gas.A coal mine safety bureau official in central Hunan province said four miners were lifted to the ground early on Sunday in Leiyang city.
The rescue of the fourth miner was shown live on state broadcaster CCTV’s news channel.
- 15 miners trapped inside coal mine in Meghalaya (thehindu.com)
Fifteen miners have been trapped in a rat-hole coalmine near the Nangalbibra area in Meghalaya since Friday afternoon. It is suspected that water gushed in from an adjacent, flooded, abandoned mine as they accidentally punctured its wall, Director-General of Police N. Ramachandran told The Hindu, adding there was very little hope of anyone surviving.
- Four Chinese miners rescued, seven die (smh.com.au)
The Leiyang mine flood had trapped 16 workers on Wednesday and 11 of them were confirmed alive on Saturday, said the provincial official.Many of the miners still underground were injured and receiving first aid treatment from medical personnel who had entered the pit with stretchers and equipment, according to Xinhua.
The flood in the coal mine occurred when 40 miners were working underground, and two dozen escaped, Xinhua said.
- Coal: Derailments add fuel to export battle (junkscience.com)
Three recent coal train derailments are bolstering opposition to the planned expansion of coal exports from Pacific Northwest shipping terminals.