Penchon Head-stocks, Charleroi, Belgium, November 2019

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People's Republic of South Yorkshire.
1. The History
Located on the borders of Marcinelle and Couillet, near Charleroi, "Le Pêchon" was the name given to Mine No.25 of coal mining company of Marcinelle Nord. It was opened in 1910 and then, 20 years later, absorbed by Monceau-Fontaine, the largest mining company in the Charleroi basin. Many of the mine’s galleries were swampy (hence the name) and infamous for their dangerous nature, especially for the firedamp they concealed. The mine went to a depth of 1,115 meters, passing under the neighbouring Cazier mine. Its galleries crawled for more than four kilometres underground and was one of the first seams to use electric extraction machines.

On June 17th, 1952 a very rare accident occurred. In a gallery located at a depth of 790m connecting Pêchon to the mine of Festiaux (no.24), a locomotive broke down. A call was made to the surface and soon, 6 men were found around the loco. A violent explosion followed. Rescuers arrived in the gallery to discover the extent of the damage: 4 dead, 6 missing and 2 survivors. Investigations carried out afterwards concluded the explosion was due to ignition of the firedamp, most likely lit during the attempts of revivals of the locomotive.

Life was hard in the mine as shown by this archive film footage of the mine:

49235404792_e8a0820c9f_b.jpgPenchon old 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Just over 20 years later, in November, 1972, six miners lost their lives, buried under the coal, again due to a mine gas explosion. An instantaneous release of firedamp caused the death of six miners in front of a gallery, located in vein A42, 800 meters underground. It gave Pêchon the dubious honour of being the last mine in Wallonia where a major disaster occurred. It spelled the beginning of the end for the mine which finally closed less than three years later in March 31st, 1975.

The site has been completely cleared of its buildings now for many years. Only the 2 headstocks now remain and have been awaiting restoration for several years.

2. The Explore
Was contemplating whether to report on here as my photos were pretty limited to be honest. In the end given it’s not been reported on here before so figured something was better than nothing. This was a bit of a bonus explore right at the end (and the 10th explore) of my trip to Belgium, last month. I’d had this place marked on a previous visit to Charleroi a year or so ago but never got around to coming here. I’d kind of forgotten about the place but when I was heading over to Amicale Solvey late on the Sunday, caught a glimpse of these two beasts. So, on the way back with the sun having set and dusk upon me, I parked up, walked down an overgrown path between two houses onto an old football field at the back of some houses and negotiated the wire fencing. The two iron giants reaching up into the colbalt-blue sky was pretty atmospheric. Fortunately, I had just enough light to get some decent pictures but didn’t contemplate climbing them in the low light. And a fitting way to finish off a pretty coal-mining heavy trip…

3. The Pictures

49165644756_ac944336bf_b.jpgimg4482 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165876847_8f96c5f802_b.jpgimg4483 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165875757_91896ed8c6_b.jpgimg4486bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165162323_face6f6d68_b.jpgimg4487bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165639261_ae3ea8a142_b.jpgimg4488bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165160728_4431cb1d40_b.jpgimg4489 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165636896_51e0d991b7_b.jpgimg4490bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165157698_ec5a810fa4_b.jpgimg4492 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165156928_4e647f8396_b.jpgimg4494bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165634106_90a8275a88_b.jpgimg4496 by HughieDW, on Flickr

49165866617_d434cc8c9d_b.jpgimg4497bw by HughieDW, on Flickr

King Al

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Excellent pics as always Hughie, looks like a cool way to end your trip :)

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