Exploring a small corner of Belgium’s mining legacy

Liège, in the east of Belgium, is tied closely to the extraction of coal. After originally being known as a trade centre, the city was built on the back of coal and steel blast furnaces through the 1900s. In the late 1970s though, many of the area’s mines started closing, including the one in the village of Cheratte, a short trip down-river of Liège.

One of my friends in Belgium knew how much I enjoyed abandoned buildings (even if I haven’t shot in them much) and organised for me to visit the old Hasard Cheratte Colliery one afternoon. This must be one of the most-visited UrbEx (urban exploration) sites around Liège, and it was well worth the visit. What with all the graffiti-artists that visit it, I imagine it looks very different today to 39 years ago when it closed.

Large-scale extraction of anthracite started as far back as 1847 on the site, which was then closed a few decades later after an accident. The main headframe, built in neo-gothic style, was opened in 1907. In total, another three shafts were sunk, one with a metal tower, another with a concrete tower (the tallest of them all) and yet another, on the hill above the original mine, with a smaller concrete tower.

At its peak, the mine employed around 1500 people and, when it closed in 1977, still had more than 600 miners on its payroll. After its closure, the site was bought by a real estate developer, who removed tower number two and other metal infrastructure to sell as scrap. Apparently he planned to demolish the entire site but was stopped by several protection orders. The main building (the original tower of mine no.1) is now classified as a heritage site. SPI, the economic development agency for the province of Liège, is currently working on a sustainable plan for the remarkable property.

After that little history lesson, and without further ado, here are the many many photos I took when I visited! (I’m sorry, I just couldn’t whittle them down.) I could have spent hours more exploring the site but, sadly, way too soon, we literally had to run to get to another meeting.

Click on an image to start the photo slideshow, and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see some of my previous “abandoned places” posts.

Abandoned places I photographed while living in Canada:

A house at the side of the road in the Cariboo: Abandoned. Exploited

And then there was the mill that had been closed in the early 21st century, and which I stumbled on while out walking. Abandoned, but not without life.

The old church was my favourite model and I shot her often. Here are three of the posts.
Little church on the prairie.
Beauty in the broken.
One last photoshoot with one of my favourite models.