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The history of coal in Provence

Puit Hély d'Oissel

Provence Coalfield explotation begin on XVth century. Initially, it is a craft activity mainly concentrated in Régagnas and Etoile North sheds, where the coal seam - whose extension reach the Berre lake - shows on the surface. First access to mine are narrow 45° inclined shafts. At the XIXth century, vertical shafts, steam and railroad mark the beginning of industrial exploitation. At that time, the heart of coal basin is located in Fuveau-Gréasque-Saint-Savournin area… During XXth century, exploitation get more important in its occidental part (Gardanne, Meyreuil) while first mines become unprofitable and are abandoned (Trets). Mining landscape get structured : mines banks, pit-head frame, heaps, washing places, mining towns, etc. Workers from Europe and Mediterranean basin.

After second world war, all the French coal companies are nationalised within Charbonnages de France group. Provençal mining concessions are aggregated into the « Provence » production unit , stakeholder of the Houillères de Bassin Centre Midi. Some concessions are not nationalised (Coudoux, La Fare-les-Oliviers, Plan d’Aups). The post-war reconstruction is an intensive exploitation period. But local lignite is competed by foreign coals and alternative energies. Effective extracting methods are implemented (particularly, powered roof support). Yvon Morandat well, excavated in 1981 in Gardanne, is still the most recent installation when it is closed in 2003. The end of exploitation in Provence precede more or less the end of exploitation in Lorraine (2004), that mark the definitive end of coal extracting in France.

Nearly 150 millions tons of coal have been produced in Provence. It have contributed to the regional industrial development, particularly in Marseille. It has fixed structuring activities in the territory, among others cement plants that installed early enough in the vicinity of wells (Cadolive, Trets, ...) to use low quality coals, important bauxite treatment and alumina fabrication unit, and a heat power plant. In its most important activity period, mine has employed more than 6000 persons (1945-1947).

Observatoire Hommes-Milieux du Bassin Minier de Provence
Technopole de l'Environnement Arbois-Méditerranée
Avenue Louis PHILIBERT
Bâtiment Laennec
BP 80
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