Carreau Wendel - Abandoned mine in France, February 2021

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Jul 25, 2017
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Carreau Wendel #03

by Broken Window Theory

Dilapidated ruins contain history unseen by the public. As urban explorers, the forgotten draws us to rediscover what otherwise would just vanish. For almost 150 years, tunnels were dug here, and coal was produced. This is an old mine in France. Parts of this massive compound could be preserved - but not all of it. These are the neglected remains falling apart day by day. We came here to document as long it is still there.

Carreau Wendel #02

by Broken Window Theory

Once this was a landmark that created thousands of jobs, as well as contributing to the prosperity in all of France. But nowadays, this huge mine lies idle. As modern society is forgetting its industrial heritage, and how it is connected to humankind's story, we urban explorers want to reclaim it. So, we set out on another journey through time, hoping to find out more about how the past created who we are today. For that, we traveled to a small town near the German border. This is where this museum is located. Yes, it is a museum actually - at least parts of it, not where we entered.

Carreau Wendel #29

by Broken Window Theory

In the 1850s, industrialization began in the area, and the first coal was mined. Following that, the shafts of this mine were sunk between 1860 and 1890. A shaft is a vertical tunnel leading hundreds of meters underground to transport miners, materials, and minerals. They were digging for black coal, most of which was to be used as fuel and consequently replaced wood. Coal became the main source of energy for iron and steel production, mechanical engineering, and railroads. In Europe, heavy industry was made possible by coal. A small group of countries was able to extract it, was highly industrialized as a result, and dominated the continents with its colonies and investments. This economic power still holds today. So, it is also the miners to whom we owe our wealth here in the West. For them, it was hard work though, and exhausting: they often suffered from heat and did not see daylight for hours on end. Every now and then, a tunnel collapsed and buried miners. Working in such adverse conditions often led to miners' illnesses: chronic respiratory diseases, anemia, worms, and tuberculosis, to name but a few.

Carreau Wendel #25

by Broken Window Theory

Until the time of World War One, production here increased rapidly. But with the Second World War, it stagnated. To revive the economy of war-torn France, significantly more coal had to be mined. Within less than ten years, coal production in Lorraine tripled. In the 50s, a third mine shaft was sunk here, together with a highly modern coal washing plant - that is the big red building you see next.

Carreau Wendel #01

by Broken Window Theory

In 1960, up to 10,000 tons of coal could be extracted here per day with a workforce of 5,000 miners. Obviously, that needed a lot of infrastructure aboveground. But now imagine what it must look like below the surface. You can’t see it but it is basically all hollowed out. But more than 30 years ago, operations here ceased. The economic downturn in the French coal sector had already begun in the 1960s. Mining and investment continued at this site until 1986 when the colliery was eventually closed. In the following years, a part of the infrastructure was still in use to support other mines, for example, to ventilate tunnels. The shafts of this compound were then shut one by one.

Carreau Wendel #04

by Broken Window Theory

Old industrial structures like this are records of urban development and the progress of human civilization itself. Yet, more and more of these old industries are simply being demolished and replaced - even though most of them are the last of their kind. Instead, they should stay in-between memory and transformation: let them be remembered and restored.

Carreau Wendel #09

by Broken Window Theory

We posted an exploration video on YouTube where we show you way more of this mine and explain how it worked: