European Heritage Label for the Bois du Cazier!


The Bois du Cazier appears among nine new European sites to receive the European Heritage Label this year. After the Mundaneum in Mons, the site of the former coal mine in Marcinelle has become the second Belgian site to receive this prestigious label.

Since 2013, the European Heritage Label has been awarded to sites that, through their symbolic value, highlight the scale of European achievements and ideals. Whether they stand out for the role they have played in history, the activities they offer or their capacity to bring the European Union and its citizens closer together, each of these sites has brought something to Europe's history. For example, such is the case with the historic naval shipyard in Gdansk, the Imperial Palace in Vienna and the Mundaneum in Mons. The Bois du Cazier, the former coal mine in Marcinelle, which brings together European history, values, solidarity and integration now joins such sites.

Indeed, in order to understand the reasons for this award, we need to take a look at some of the history of the Bois du Cazier. After the devastation caused by the Second World War, the Bois du Cazier, which was one of the sites that had benefited from the Marshal Plan, designed to reconstruct Europe, also signed an agreement with Italy: the infamous "man against coal". This agreement saw 50,000 men emigrate to Belgium with their families to work in the mines.

A few years later, 8 August 1956 was a particularly painful episode in the history of not only Marcinelle, but Europe. At the Bois du Cazier, 262 of the 275 miners lost their lives in an accident that took place in the depths of the mine. Among the mostly Italian victims, twelve other nations were also affected, including Poland, Germany, Greece and Hungary. This European tragedy subsequently led to the creation of a permanent body, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the predecessor to the European Union, dedicated to safety in the mines.

Strengthened by its past, this memorial heritage that is the Bois du Cazier is certainly worthy of the European Heritage Label, recognition that celebrates the value of a real European milestone. The mine is also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the most important mining sites in Wallonia.