Having failed spectacularly to gain entry to our target sites not once but three times consecutively on our Belgian urb-ex road trip we were getting a tad disheartened, so we decided to have one more go before canning it and heading on to Verdun a day early. Neither TJ nor I are particularly fond of industrial sites, they just don't float our prospective boats, so when we heard about a coal mine, a dirty, black, minging coal mine, we were less than enthusiastic, but we researched the location anyway and made a note of how to find it. So, with coordinates duly programmed into the "drivers curse" (that's Tom Tom to you) we found ourselves standing on a narrow path next to a farmer's field half way up a hill, where he was merrily spraying human cr*p all over the place and creating the most appalling, bowk inducing stink!


Time to think again clearly! We eventually found that the coordinates had been entered incorrectly and with much swearing and general irritability we finally rolled into the tiny village where the mine really is! To be honest it's hard to miss it because most of the main street is taken up by a long building which runs the entire length of the mine complex. There is little else on the main street apart from a small cafe, also apparently part of the same building! We wandered aimlessly looking for a way in, getting more and more depressed by the minute because the only obvious route appeared to be down a near vertical cliff directly behind the workings, not altogether suitable, especially as our ropes and descenders would definitely be needed - it wasn't "in" that would be difficult, gravity would help with that, "out" though would be an entirely different matter! On the point of canning this one too we wandered along a tiny back street eyeing up the building until a guy appeared out of a house behind us, asked us what we were doing, and then as if by magic produced a key to a side door of the complex! Of course money had to change hands but at least it meant we enjoyed an undisturbed explore and all the time we wanted!

A result at last!

 L'histoire d'Hasard Cherrate mine de charbon...

The Hasard Cherratte colliery was opened in 1860 by "Les Charbonnages du Hasard", a local coal mining company. The Liege area is dotted with pits and their associated slag heaps and coal was for many years the principal fuel feeding Belgium's electricity production.  This colliery complex defies the norm by being aesthetically pleasing; indeed the mine buildings actually compliment what would otherwise be a rather grey and uninviting village.  The price of coal extraction increases as soon as the richer seams are depleted and eventually every colliery reaches a point where it is no longer economically viable to continue extraction operations. Hasard Cherrate reached that point in 1977 and having already reduced their work force from in excess of 1500 miners to just 600, it was time to shut down the mine leaving the village to slowly degenerate into a rather grim looking commuter suburb of Liege itself.

And from the urb-exer's point of view that was when life began to get interesting, for the entire site was left pretty much alone even after it was sold off to a private owner who has done nothing at all with it subsequently apart from securing the various entrance doors. The colliery buildings are not what you might expect to find being really rather ornate rather than functional, especially the brick built "Malakow Tower" block which sits over the top of the 170 meter deep shaft number 1. Constructed in 1907, it dominates the colliery and the village. The tower itself looks for all the world like an 18th. century castle despite it's functionality, the miner's showers and locker rooms are located here together with numerous offices.  Another shaft dug into the hillside behind the mine buildings was named "Puits Hognée", and the entrance it is still visible inside the tower. It is not possible to go into the shaft now as it has been comprehensively barred for safety reasons. Interestingly you find this shaft entrance by nose rather than with your eyes because the pungent and rather rancid smell of methane rich coal gas assails your senses long before you come to the entrance! Shaft number 2 has a not inconsiderable depth of 313 meters with a cage lift down to the coal face located inside one of the numerous buildings on site. But the last shaft is the deepest at 480 meters. The associated diagonally braced winding tower is standard colliery fare and this steel and concrete construction dating back to 1923 is well worth the effort of climbing to the top for the variety of expansive views it affords both over the colliery itself and the surrounding countryside.

The unusual architecture of the site meant that it was afforded historical monument status in 1982 so for at least the foreseeable future the Malakow Tower is NOT coming down, but nothing else appears to be happening with the site other than it's occasional use as a paint ball venue. The buildings are littered with innumerable artefacts including component parts of respirators, miner's protective clothing and boots, and masses of ledgers and assorted paperwork, the reading of which would take days! All in all the photo and exploration opportunities here are enormous and it is a site well worth visiting, even for none-industrial explorers like us!


Below is a selection of the photographs we took on our Hasard Cherrate mine visit in April, 2012...

To view any of the photographs in a far bigger size then click on the image of your choice and it will open in a new window.

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The photographs on this website MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT THE EXPRESS PERMISSION of the website author...


The colliery takes up most of the main street in the village...

The first view of the winding tower...
And we're in!
We have moved into the colliery proper now.
A cage lift which I think accesses pit number 2...
The lift framework rises several floors.
Beyond pit 2...


M attempts to frame a shot whilst trying to prevent the rain drops landing on his lens!

An access stairway leads to the upper level of the colliery...

A wise word of warning as there are several unguarded holes with appreciable drops scattered about topsides!
We have moved into an admin block which sits directly behind the main street of the village.
A flight of concrete stairs leads us up through the office complex to the upper level of the colliery.
Concrete stair porn!


This office looks directly out over the main street of the village and the colliery bridge.

The remains of several box respirators.


On the colliery upper level now with the magnificent Malakow Tower in the distance.

The front elevation of the winding tower.

At the rear of the tower is a huge concrete brace.


Inside the winding tower's associated winch house. This is where the winch motor and the bottom wheel were located.


The winch control room and consul.

Heavy lifting gear in the winch house.

The tower is several stories high.
On the way up!
On the first level now.

A big grin (is it a little forced perhaps?) despite the open plan steel stairs she has just had to climb!


The colliery bridge over the village main street again.


And again but a level higher now. Can you see the tiny estate car with a roof box? That's ours!


It's a long way down!
A gratuitous "Wish You Were Here" self portrait!
Looking across from high up on the winding tower.
The winch pulley wheel at the top of the tower.

This is a truly enormous hook!


Here you can see it for scale against TJ who is now standing next to a drop the full height of the tower and then on down into the pit! That's why she looks nervous!!!

Composing a shot of...
The wheel of course!
One level down now and this appears to be a lift cage.
And there's our car again!


Access from the processing area by pit 2 to the upper working levels as seen from the winding tower.

We've just been up that!

Time for the Malakow Tower now.
Who is that nobby posing up the tower then?
I'll give you one guess!
A locker room inside the Malakow Tower.
TJ explores the showers looking for lost miners.
Graffed up but still in good nick!
Abandoned miner's leather aprons.
In the tower offices now and here's a ledger.
...and another with an entry dated 1927.
This appears to be  a foreman's note book or the like.


You could find this entrance to "Puits Hognée" in the tower with your eyes shut so bad is the smell of coal gas and methane!

Moving on into what appears to be an equipment issuing area and the cash office where the men were paid.

A punch card rack.

We didn't run into this worker on our explore.


Men would queue here to pick up their ventilators and be clocked in and out of the mine.

Workshops behind the kit store.
Various abandoned artefacts.
I wonder who this belonged to?
The mouthpiece from a respirator.
Looking back towards the Malakow Tower and winch tower.
Abandoned  armoured boots.
Carefully hung up after the last shift ended in 1973.
More assorted artefacts.

We descended to street level and found our way out of the colliery past the miner's entrance. The end of a great explore!


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