I had the opportunity to visit with my younger cousin Mélanie the Mining history centre of Lewarde and I had quite an interesting time.
As the name suggests, this is a former coal mine transformed into a museum. And yes, we went down the mine !
The guided tour was very interesting as it shows the evolution of the coal mining techniques since the 18th century to present days. The Lewarde mine was indeed active from 1720 to 1990.
Which clearly shows that if the techniques themselves have evolved completely with the arrival of electricity, various machines and mechanization, the working conditions have little changed.
Coal-mining is still a very dangerous activity because of the numerous hazards one can encounter below ground. Indeed, there is still coal dust, heat, a lot of noise and a lot of dangers. Wikipedia gives us a little more:
Historically, coal mining has been a very dangerous activity and the list of historical coal mining disasters is a long one. In the US alone, more than 100,000 coal miners were killed in accidents over the past century,with more than 3,200 dying in 1907 alone.
Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions; underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse and gas explosions.
(…) in lesser developed countries and some developing countries, many miners continue to die annually, either through direct accidents in coal mines or through adverse health consequences from working under poor conditions.
China, in particular, has the highest number of coal mining related deaths in the world, with official statistics claiming that 6,027 deaths occurred in 2004. To compare, 28 deaths were reported in the US in the same year.
If you are interested in further reading, you can have a look at the articles on coal i have published since 2007 on my other blog…
Overall, I can say we had a great time at this museum and recommend it to learn about coal, its mining and its hazards.