Will the coal preparation plant of the Beringen Mine be demolished ?

The impressive coal preparation plant of the Beringen coal mine

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On, March 1st, 2018, at 12:53, we received this message from the Province of Limburg
“The Provincial Government of Limburg grants a license to be-MINE to demolish Coal Preparation Plant I at the mine site in Beringen. This means that the Province of Limburg is following up the plans for be-MINE Beringen from the Strategic Action Plan (SALK) to revalue the former Beringen mine site".

It reminds us of Orwell's 'newspeak' ...
'Revaluating' (sic) a historic building by demolishing more than half of it ?
Apparently, no account is taken of the fact that the coal preparation plant is since 1994 a legally protected monument, the protection of which has not yet been removed - and even the procedure for lifting the protection has not yet been started. Before the protection can be lifted, a public inquiry and advice from the Flemish Immovable Heritage Committee are also required.      
The coal preparation plant is also on the shortlist of the European programme 'The 7 Most Endangered'. The 12 monuments and sites on the shortlist were selected while taking into account their outstanding heritage and cultural value as well as the imminent danger that they are facing. The engagement of local communities and the commitment of public and private stakeholders to saving these sites were also considered crucial. Another main criterion was the potential of these sites to act as a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development.

On March 1st the Vlaamse Vereniging voor Industriële Archaeologie (Flemish Association for Industrial Archaeology) sent out the following press release:

Will the coal preparation plant in Beringen be demolished?

On 16 January, Europa Nostra announced that the Beringen coal washing plant was included in the shortlist of 12 most endangered and important heritage sites in Europe.

The 7 Most Endangered is a program of Europa Nostra, the leading heritage platform in Europe, together with the European Investment Bank Institute, supported by the EU Commission under the 'Creative Europe' program. 12 heritage sites from 10 European countries are included on the shortlist, including one from Belgium.

This announcement that the coal preparation plant was put on the shortlist provoked reactions throughout Europe, protests against the plans for amputating the site, but also offers from experts to contribute to the search for alternatives, conservation and re-use.

An online petition list was also launched in January (available in Dutch, French and English). In the meantime 1098 statements of support were received (standings 1 March, 12:00), not only from Belgium, but also many from the Netherlands and Germany, and from Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland - even from Russia. An ex-miner shouted his anger from Turkey that the coal laundry should not be demolished.

BE-Mine and LRM (Limburg Reconversion Company) meanwhile make every effort to realize the demolition plans. Remarkable, but as far as is known, no serious alternatives were ever sought. Incredible, the public company LRM, which operates under the wings of the Flemish Government, while the Flemish Government legally protected the coal preparation plant as a monument in 1994...
Apparently no appeal was made to the Flemish Government Architect for such an important file, nor was a committee of experts put together to study and research alternatives (a method often used in other countries).

The petition therefore also clearly requests Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois (in charge of heritage conservation), the Flemish Government and all responsible authorities and institutions

1) not to grant a permit for the demolition of any parts of this unique building complex
2) not to  lift or modify the protected status of the coal preparation plant in order to facilitate  the demolition (of parts) of the building
3) to protect the buildings from decay and to keep them intact, and at the same time to carry out a serious architectural and feasibility study for the re-use, interpretation and re-evaluation of this coal preparation plant. We propose, among other things, to launch a European ideas competition for this building
4) to find the necessary funds for this and make them available.

From all the information we now have, it appears that behind the scenes, with political pressure and horse trading, an attempt is being made to enforce the demolition as soon as possible - to create a 'fait accompli'.
The coal washing plant of Beringen is currently internationally in the spotlight. The lifting of protection and the demolition of parts of it will in any case not go unnoticed in Europe, certainly not in the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 (EYCH2018). In addition, the month of April was declared the industrial heritage EYCH2018 theme month for mining and metallurgy (to commemorate the signing on 18 April 1951 of the ECSC Treaty, the European Coal and Steel Community). In this context, a meeting of European mining projects was planned in Beringen from 13-15 April

If a permit is granted for the demolition of a large part of the coal washing plant of Beringen, this will burden Flanders and the Limburg mining area with a negative image. Does Flanders ridicule itself internationally, as a heritage pariah ? Condemning, as a contribution to the European Year of Cultural Heritage, one of the 12 major endangered European important heritage sites?

It is up to the Flemish Government, the Province of Limburg and the City of Beringen to decide and take responsibility.
We also recall that last year, on the basis of a strongly motivated document, the city of Beringen refused a first request to obtain a demolition permit. BE-Mine and LRM appealed against this to the Province of Limburg. Under heavy political pressure, the city of Beringen doesn’t seem to object again.

Because the coal washing plant is also a protected monument. The protection must first be lifted (by the Flemish Government) according to the mandatory procedure (with public hearing). This procedure even hasn’t yet been brought into action - and thus the demolition permit granted by the province can be considered to be illegal.



We ask everybody to send a protest to

Provincie Limburg, Universiteitslaan 1, B-3500 Hasselt
tel. 011 23 71 11
fax 011 23 81 11
e-mail info@limburg.be
and to the provincial commissioner in charge, mrs. Inge Moors

the Lord Mayor of Beringen , Mr. Maurice Webers
Mijnschoolstraat 88
3580 Beringen
T 011 43 03 39
F 011 43 46 59
and to the alderman of town planning, Mrs. Anne Cuypers

Also insist to Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois
not to lift or change the protection of the coal preparation plant
Martelaarsplein 19, B-1000 Brussel

Send a copy to the Flemish Immovable Heritage Agency
Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed,
Herman Teirlinckgebouw, Havenlaan 88 bus 5, B-1000 Brussel