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In Flamanville, the story of a mine under the sea

In Normandy at Flamanville, the Diélette iron mine supported a whole community of workers for more than a century. The mine had the complex characteristic of being located under the sea. A story to be discovered in the documentary by Pierre-François Lebrun.

Off the port of Diélette stand the remains of a concrete platform, “the Wharf”. This abandoned structure is there to recall the activity of the iron mine which made the region live for nearly a century. At the time, the platform was connected to the earth by a cable car system.

A mine “under the sea”

The peculiarity of this iron mine lies in its location. The 15 km of galleries were located under the sea, 90 to 150 meters deep, which inevitably made its operation complex.

The security of the site was based on a pumping station which was in continuous operation. In the event of a breakdown, the miners had twenty minutes to evacuate the mine.

To expand the mine, more and more galleries were built after World War II. But this weakened the place and caused infiltrations. To avoid “drowning” the galleries, it was therefore necessary to pump, which ended up being too expensive compared to the surface mining operations in Africa. The incessant battle against the sea became impossible to continue. On the eve of its closure in 1962, the mine employed more than 200 people.

The city of Saint-Barbe

In the 1930s, the workforce was in short supply. Italian, Spanish, Polish and Czechoslovak workers converged on Flamanville.

If the work was hard, the wages there were much better than on the surrounding farms. The families of the minors were housed free of charge away from the village in the settlements of the Cité Sainte-Barbe.

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Composed mainly of minors, the Flamanville football team was renowned for its tenacity and harshness throughout Normandy.

About twenty of them are still alive. Each year, the elders always meet at the beginning of December to celebrate the Holy Beard and to find for a few hours a fraternity and a camaraderie that the years have not eroded, that of the underground miners.

To see Pierre-François Lebrun’s film in replay, “The mine under the sea” broadcast in the Littoral, the collection on France 3 Bretagne, it’s here:

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The mine under the sea of ​​Diélette

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