From black to green

Finefrau 14 October 1981, construction work on the former Domaniale Mine site (Kerkrade Municipal Archives)

Until the early 1960s, the Eastern Mining Region was a real industrial monoculture, with about 90% of male industrial workers directly or indirectly involved in mining! Until the mid-1960s, Kerkrade had no industrial sites other than the Domaniale Mine, the Willem-Sophia Mine and the Wilhelmina state mine.
Besides the coal mines and supply companies, there was barely no industrial activity in the old mining town, and little in the way of services either. Mining was the motor behind the economy in Kerkrade.
When Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Den Uyl wrote his first Mine Memorandum, two new business areas were under development in the Municipality of Kerkrade: Spekholzerheide and Dentgenbach.

In late July 1966, Den Uyl decided that the Domaniale Mine should be closed first, following a study that mainly compared the expected future profitability of the Domaniale Mine and the Willem-Sophia mine.
The last wagon of anthracite left the Domaniale mine via the Willem II shaft on 29 August 1969.
At exactly 3 PM on Friday afternoon, 18 June 1971, the last major structure of the Domaniale Mine was demolished.
The official demolition by the company Couwenbergh N.V. started in January 1970, more than four months after the last wagon with Domaniale anthracite had been brought to the surface.
In the 1970s, the Dutch government paid little attention to the historical value of the country’s industrial heritage. They wanted to clear the mine sites as quickly as possible, to make way for new industries and residential areas.
The last characteristic row of miners’ and supervisors’ houses to be demolished was the community in Nieuwstraat 118 to 133. Two years after the closure of the Domaniale Mine, the mine site on Nieuwstraat looked like a sterile moonscape, with random chunks of concrete and pieces of iron sticking out of the ground.
A new residential area with around 450 social homes was planned for the former industrial site, complete with local facilities such as schools, shops, parks and sports fields, according to the Domaniale Park Plan. It included an area for walking and recreation on and around Beerenbosch, the slagheap.

The SSO (Partnership for the Remediation of the Eastern Mining Area Urban Region – a supra-municipal consultation body) directed the transition
from Black to Green, with 750 hectares of former mine site in South Limburg being given a new purpose. The establishment of this consultation body was one of the conditions for obtaining cash set aside for grants under the Dutch Ministry of Housing and Spatial Planning’s Contributions to Reconstruction and Remediation Plans Decree. Another condition was that the remediation operation had to be completed within 10 years.

The first houses appeared on the Domaniale site, but the ambitious Domaniale Park Plan had since been watered down to an average Dutch neighbourhood with residential areas. The streets were named after coal seams and fractures in Earth’s crust in the concession area of the old abbey mines of Kloosterrade (Leyendecker, Finefrau, Athwerk, etc.).

The new Structuurweg Gracht, currently Domaniale Mijnstraat, was constructed on the route of the former mine track to Spekholzerheide. It required various structures to be demolished, including farmer Kroonen’s Hamhof dairy farm on Baamstraat (mid-1972).
Where the mine site and surrounding houses covered with mine dust once stood, there are now residential areas with lots of greenery. Only the Nulland shaft remains on Domaniale Mijnstraat, as a monument to the old mine.

Feldbiss, construction of housing on the former Domaniale colliery site (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

Around 1966, the first draft of a social plan was published by Dr. D.B. Jochems, secretary of the supervisory board of Domaniale Mijn Maatschappij.His analyses were the prelude to the largest dismissal and redeployment action ever seen in the Netherlands! Part of the workforce, 16% of the then 2,100 employees, was transferred to the municipal Social Workshop (GSW) due to physical limitations (including silicosis). At the end of 1968, the Soziale Werkvoorzieningsschap Zuidoostelijk Limburg (ZOL) started building new accommodation at the corner of Heerlenersteenweg – Locht. In the process, adapted workplaces had to be created. Until then, the social workshops had been suppliers for the mines.

The creation of new jobs mainly took place in the companies that cooperated with N.V. Industriebouw Kerkrade.

At the end of 1967, the Ministry of Economic Affairs made the official application for the application of Article 56(2) of the ECSC Treaty and Article 4 of Decision 3-65 of the “Hoge Autoriteit”. This so-called conversion aid was intended to provide social security during the phasing out of mining in the six countries of the European Community in such a way that the affected workforce was harmed as little as possible. The aid provided, among other things, a temporary bridging allowance in addition to WW and WWV, as well as wage supplements for workers who accepted lower-paid employment. Issues such as retraining, job applications and relocation were also covered by reintegration assistance.

The management encouraged workers to look for new jobs themselves. An important element of the redundancy process was staff retraining and further education. If miners completed retraining or further education at an adult education centre or other recognised retraining programme, they were entitled to a bridging allowance. Eventually they had to go back to school for a shorter or longer period to learn another trade. These were “tailor-made training programmes” specifically designed for the company where the miners were to work. Curriculum and teacher developers had to be very imaginative to give the often experimental teaching material the desired content to make the retraining successful.

The now closed Beerenbosch Underground Vocational School (OVS) was converted into a retraining centre for this purpose in early 1968. Among other things, the internal training of Bronswerk-Feijenoord (merged in 1969 with Stork and Helio Repro Service, both part of N.V. Industriebouw Kerkrade) took place here.

N.V. Industriebouw Kerkrade

The plan was to locate about 15 small and medium-sized enterprises on the Spekholzerheide industrial estate, using facilities provided by the Ministry of Economics and the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community). As there were a number of thresholds, it was practically impossible for the smaller enterprises to receive a premium.

To overcome this objection, the Staf Industrialisatie, in consultation with the municipality of Kerkrade, the Industrieschap Oostelijk Mijngebied and the Economisch-Technologische Instituut Limburg (ETIL), developed a special construction at the suggestion of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The idea was to create a kind of community of interest for the common industries that would act as one party to the outside world. By working together, the companies could achieve more than they could individually. The alliance could also take care of common services such as occupational health, fire protection, night watch, etc. The alliance took concrete shape when N.V. Industriebouw Kerkrade was founded a few months later. Director Thei Dols from the Domaniale Colliery acted as part-time director of the company.

The cost of setting up the industrial estate was over 67 million guilders. These funds came from various programmes, from the municipality of Kerkrade and the ECSC. Special mention should be made of the mayor of Kerkrade, Theo Gijsen, and the alderman for economic affairs, Werner Buck, under whose leadership the Industriebouw project was launched.

Other miners were less fortunate. For example, eight retrainees of the welding equipment manufacturer Teko Electric were temporarily transferred to Naarden, and the miners of the top manufacturer Dentex had to move to the parent company in Nieuw-Vennep for seven months.

The miners were used to “Moedertje Mijn” sorting everything out for them. For many of them this meant a big change. Those who had once left the mine gate had to find their own way, as difficult as that was sometimes.

As the Domaniale mine was the first of all Dutch mines to close, the dismissed workers did not benefit from the plans of the Second Mining Memorandum, which were only further concretised at the end of 1969 (including information campaigns, the establishment of training centres, cultural and community facilities).


Book Paul Geilenkirchen : “Der domaniale Steinkohlenbergbau 1815-1996”. ISBN 9789403623160
Pages 393, 399, 413, 414, 415, 416, 418, 420, 427, 430, 435, 436, 437, 438, 453, 458, 459, 463, 468.
Chapter: “lange geschiedenis”.

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