Up and Out
Heusden-Zolder Coal Mine
Located in Heusden-Zolder, Limberg Belgium
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Heusden-Zolder Coal Mine History
The municipality of Heusden-Zolder lies in what was once a deserted region in western Limberg; Heusden was once called "Husdinio" (hospice), and Zolder was originally named "Sueire" (acid sandy soil). The small and penniless towns of this region were about to see a major change as coal was discovered in 1901; deep drillings and applications for excavation were hastily made as the rush developed. Seven major mining centers were created over the Kempen coal basin between 1917 and 1939, bringing industry and prosperity to the region. At the time of peak production, the area was the workplace to over 44,000 miners.
Times were not always easy however, as the first World War made for a shaky start. During the second World War, the mines were obligated to build barracks for Russian prisoners of war, who were forced to work under German command.
When petroleum production began to phase the need for coal out in 1958, the mines began to consolidate - the nearby Houthalen mine merged with the Zolder mines in 1964, and the municipality of Heusden merged with Zolder in 1972 to create Heusden-Zolder. The Zolder mine was the last in the region to close in 1992; part of the facility was re-used as working space for sustainable energy solution companies and other organizations.