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Reforming Mineral Ownership and Ensuring Surface Owners' Rights: The Gosselies Disaster

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In interwar Belgium, coal mining suffered a double, socioeconomic and environmental, crisis. The rise in coal production went along with increased mining damage. The cost of the damage became so high that mining companies were unable to bear it. In 1934, a disaster in the town of Gosselies revealed the weakness of the Belgian mining industry. The town was disfigured by the effects of surface subsidence caused by the Grand Conty and Spinois mining company. Unable to make compensation to victimised surface owners, the company declared itself bankrupt. The Belgian state was then faced with an unprecedented environmental crisis threatening to jeopardise the future of coal extraction in the country. The disaster was an opportunity to reconsider the mineral ownership regime and ensure better compensation for surface owners by placing the regulation of mining damage under administrative oversight.
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Keywords: Belgium; Coal mining; disaster; mineral rights; subsidence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2018

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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