“it causes a mine, you have to listen to everything, the scree, the water infiltration”

“it causes a mine, you have to listen to everything, the scree, the water infiltration”
“it causes a mine, you have to listen to everything, the scree, the water infiltration”

There are still many shale quarries, the famous open-air slate quarries, but the Alle-sur-Semois mine in Belgium is undoubtedly the last mine to be exploited. It was Vincent Théret who made this crazy bet in 2012 when the mine had been closed since 1948. A discovery on the job and late for this 64-year-old former mason, an activity that became a passion.

We could say that Vincent Théret is the last shale miner in Belgium, perhaps even in Europe. But this honorary title does not seem to move Vincent Théret that much. He even prefers to correct: “I am not a miner, I am an interior mine quarryman.”

Whatever the case, his workplace, the Alle-sur-Semois mine in Belgium, cannot leave anyone indifferent. Black, damp galleries with sometimes disturbing echoes… A stone cathedral with a magical atmosphere where Vincent must remain vigilant at all times.

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Vincent Théret has been working in this slate quarry since 2012.

© Daniel Samulczyk / France Télévisions

“You always have to monitor everything in the mine. It causes a mine, you have to listen to everything. The cracks, the landslides, the infiltrations of water… When you see a waterfall, and you realize that it’s moving, there’s a problem. That means the top layer is moving and we have to leave quickly, it’s going to fall off right away, I have to. make it fall to secure passage.”

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Vincent Théret must listen to the mine to avoid any danger.

© Sébastien Valente / France Télévisions

The Alle-sur-Semois slate quarry was exploited from 1865 to 1948. Having become a tourist site, the mine must remain closed to the public six months a year, in order to ensure the peace of bats that come there. take refuge in winter.

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The Alle-sur-Semois slate quarry resonates like a blue stone cathedral.

© Sébastien Valente / France Télévisions

However, this is where Vincent Théret, a former construction entrepreneur, decided to work. “I had the chance to come here, I didn’t think I would exploit it like that and then everything happened… Slate came back into fashion and I found myself drawn into it.“A dangerous, demanding, difficult job that Vincent learned on the job.

I talked to the elders, I listened a lot and I got lucky. Today I have a lot of fun working here

Vincent Théret, shale miner in Alle-sur-Semois

Within the galleries in which he travels aboard his excavator, Vincent carries tons of stones every week. HAS at the same time shale miner, forklift operator and stone cutter, he sets off alone in search large blocks of shale. They will perhaps, in time, become large polished slabs for interior floor coverings. Waste will be 100% recovered in construction, interior design or for the garden.

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Even the smallest stones are used in the construction or landscaping of gardens.

© Sébastien Valente / France Télévisions

Once dried, the blocks are inspected by Vincent to detect the slightest imperfection. “We can pour water to identify the cracks. Otherwise, we can also make it ring, we tap on it and the sound should be very clear. This is the only way we can see that the block is flawless.”

Today, Vincent easily finds buyers for these exceptional pieces. It must be said that the quality of the famous blue stone of the Ardennes makes all the difference according to him: “Many go looking for it in Spain, but nothing beats the quality of our shale, whether in France or Belgium.”

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These plates will be transformed into slabs for the floors of homes.

© Sébastien Valente / France Télévisions

At 64, Vincent intends to continue his activity as much as he can. “It’s a hard job, always in the humidity, it’s very dangerous. We learn every day… It’s a passion for me, as long as my health allows me to enter the mine and I don’t have to Don’t be afraid, I will continue.”

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