Apr 1 2022

Coal mines: the ‘black gold’ of Limburg

Winterslag, Waterschei, Eisden, Beringen, Houthalen, Zolder and Zwartberg. During the 20th century, these places were synonymous for the ‘black gold’ extracted from the underground in Limburg. The coal mines are inextricably linked to the identity of our region. The black slag heaps, playing a major role in the history of our province, are now green icons in our unique post-industrial landscape.

In the 20th century, the 7 coal mines employing more than 46.000 miners, where the engine of the economy of Limburg. Men came from all over the world: Poland, Italy, Spain, Turkey,… to work in the mines. They also took their families and delicious food with them… resulting in a vibrant multicultural cities around the seven mining sites in Limburg.
From the 1960s however, other energy sources began to replace coal. That resulted in the mines gradually becoming loss-making. In 1966 the coal mine of Genk, were at that moment 4500 people were employed, had to close. Between 1987 and 1992 all remaining mines in Belgium closed.
The heavy ‘local crisis’ caused by the closures may have largely been dealt with today, but the economic consequences can still be felt in the former mining municipalities of Genk and Maasmechelen. Both municipalities still struggle with high unemployment rates.
Today, all mines are closed, but activity at the mining sites continues. Historic mining buildings have now been transformed into future factories where entrepreneurs and researchers are building the energy and economy of the future. Art, entertainment and tourism also took its place. C-Mine in Winterslag houses, among other things, a cinema and a cultural center. You can also visit the C-mine expedition, where you will immerse yourself in fascinating tales about the mine and will indulge all your senses. In Waterschei there is Thor Park, a science, technology and business park where start-ups, research institutions, growth companies and global players in the energy sector, manufacturing industry and smart city applications join forces. In Eisden you can shop some exclusive outlet designer items in Maasmechelen Village and Beringen Be-Mine is known for its spectacular Adventure Mountain for walking and mountain biking, and they even house Europe’s first indoor snorkel and scuba diving center.

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