Accueil > Présentation > Territoire > Provence Coalfield territory

Provence Coalfield territory

The Provence Coal Basin is a 300 km² depression, drained by the Arc river, and located between the Sainte-Victoire Mountain (one of the painter Cézanne’s favorite subject), and the chain of hills surrounding the urban area of Marseille (see map).

Carte du bassin minier de Provence

During almost five centuries, coal has been extracted by generations of miners, region native or coming from other Mediterranean countries. The last mine pit, located near the 20,000 people town of Gardanne, has been closed in 2003, and over the last 25 years the area has been gradually reconverted. New industries, especially in microelectronics, have been settled in the Arc Valley. However, the Western side of the basin is still occupied by older polluting industries, namely an Eon-owned power plant, burning imported coal, a Rio-Tinto-owned alumine plant and a Lafarge-owned cement plant.

Until the middle of the XXth century, the area was essentially rural and the population was living on the soil resources as well as on the underground income. Frequently, miners were working in the galleries in the morning and the fields in the afternoon. On the mild slopes of the Southern hills, the rural activity has legated a typical landscape of “restanques”, storied sequence of narrow flat fields protected from erosion by short stone walls. Wheat, barley, grapes and olives were grown in those fields.

The rural exodus of the second part of the century and the massive arrival of the French families, when Algeria became independent in 1962, has provoked the growth of the Marseille urban area. Since the hills around the city prevent its extension, the population has spilled over on the other sides. Many small villages of the past have become towns connected by a dense network of roads and highways. The former mining villages have become stretched residential areas forming a suburban sprawl.

To learn more...

Observatoire Hommes-Milieux du Bassin Minier de Provence
Technopole de l'Environnement Arbois-Méditerranée
Avenue Louis PHILIBERT
Bâtiment Laennec
BP 80
Tél : +33 4 42 59 60 82