Bois du Cazier

Charbonnages du Bois du Cazier


Useful Information

Location: Marcinelle, near Charleroi.
Open: All year Tue-Friday 9-17, Sat-Sun 10-18.
[2009]
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Children () EUR 4.50, Students EUR 4.50.
Groups (+): Adults EUR 5, Children () EUR 3.50, Students EUR 3.50.
[2009]
Classification:  Coal mine.
Light: electric.
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided. First Sat, Sun 15:30 guided tour for additional fee.
Photography:  
Accessibility:  
Bibliography: Lootens, De Roeck, Urbain (2006): Tutti Cadavreri, Aden Publishers, 1 May 2006, French, EUR 22.
Address: Le Bois du Cazier, Rue du Cazier 80, 6001 Marcinelle-Hennegau, Tel: +32-71-880856, Fax: +32-71-880857. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
Last update:$Date: 2015/08/30 21:52:05 $

History

 
June 1946Italian-Belgian men for coal agreement.
08-AUG-1956great fire claiming 262 lives.
1967mine closed.
1990ensemble listed.
08-MAR-2002restaurated and converted into a museum, opened to the public.

Description

The site at Bois du Cazier is visited self guided, but the vistor information text is availablle in French, Dutch, English and Italian. Actually a very good thing for foreign tourists, for people who prefer a slower visit and especially for photographers who need some time for taking pictures. The site includes the pithead, the 8th August 1956 site, the glass museum, the industry museum (with audio-guide), the forges and the green spaces. There is also a documentation centre which is open by appointment. Guided tours are offered for groups with reservation, and on the first weekend every month a single guided tour which costs extra.

After World War II, Belgium needed workers for the mines and Italy needed coal. In June 1946 the two governments signed an agreement which was called was called minatori-carbone or des hommes contre du charbon (men for coal). Italy agreed to send 50,000 workers to Belgium, which in return would provide coal to Italy. Post-war conditions in Italy were pretty difficult, especiallly in southern Italy, so soon about 2,000 Italians arrived every week after a two day train journey, in total more than 77,000 between June 1946 and December 1947. Most of them had never seen a mine before.

The workers and their families had to be housed by the mines, who often simply recycled former POW camps built by the Germans to house Russian prisoners, and later used by the Allies for German prisoners. Some of them stayed in these so-called "nissan huts" for ten years.

This exchange, while difficult for the Italians, was nevertheless a win-win situation. However, something happened here at Bois du Cazier mine whiich changed the situation and ended the Italian immigration into Belgium. On 08-AUG-1956 at 8:10 a wagon of coal was pushed into the lift cage at the 975 metre level. It pushing out an empty wagon partly, which already had been in the cage. The lift started moving with both wagons partly in the cage. The two wagons destroyed electrical cables, oil and air pipes in the shaft while they were dragged up. The oil and the woodwork in the mine caught fire.

A fire in a mine is a difficult thing, it is even more dangerous in a coal mine. Smoke and poisonous gas spread rapidly through the galleries. The heat destroyed essential installations, especially the cable of the lift which made access for the rescue teams very difficult. The miners were trapped and died from the heat or chocked on the smoke. At the first days someworkers were rescued, but only 12 miners were able to escape. 262 men died, the youngest only 14 years old. When the rescue teams finally gave up after 23 days the word spread: tutti cadaveri - all dead.

Among the victims were 136 Italian, 95 Belgians, 8 Poles, 6 Greeks, 5 Germans, 5 Frenchmen, 3 Hungarians, 1 Englishman, 1 Dutchman, 1 Russian and 1 Ukrainian. This accident had two consequences, the safety regulations were tightened and the Italian immigration to Belgium ended. It actually had great influence on the safety regulations in mines on European level. Today there is a memorial walk with trees from the twelve countries whose miners died in the tragedy.


See also


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