The slate mines of Haut-Martelange are located in the Luxembourg-Belgium border region. The site itself is part of a larger slate formation composed of a number of ledges, one of which was exploited on this site until 1956. From a related site slate was however still extracted till 1986, year of the final closing down of the Luxembourgish slate industry.
The origins go back to 1790, when the inhabitants of the region exploited the slate in small quarries using manual labour. Today, one of these is open to the public and showcases the hardships of contemporary quarry labour.
In the late 19th century, many of these small quarries were taken over by the Rother family from Frankfurt, who had the necessary financial capacity to make the industry flourish. Under their ownership, the site evolved into the major slate-producer in the region. Whereas the ancient quarries were much smaller and often refilled with slate waste, the deepest quarry under Rother ownership descended to a staggering 168 metres below the surface. The caverns remain untouched to these days in their huge and impressive dimensions (average ca 14m wide x 80m long x over 100m deep), however they were flooded by underground waters after exploitation ceased. Many of the buildings standing today are witness to those days. The connection of the Rothers with the mine is symbolised by the villa and hunting chalet they built on the site and which are still standing today.
After the closure of the mine, the site and buildings were left as they had last been used and fell into disrepair. However, a small and growing number of volunteers, the “Frënn vun der Lee” or “Friends of the Slate”, took it upon themselves to not only prevent the memory of the slate industry from fading definitely out of the consciousness of our generations and keep the history of the site alive, not only by conserving the archives and talking to witnesses, but also by renovating - in collaboration with the National Sites and Monuments Service (Service des sites et monuments nationaux) - the buildings and machinery and painstakingly recreating the different steps it takes to create a slate.
Today, the site is witness to the great past, when it was a national industry employing 600 workers at a time in its hayday. Haut-Martelange, in comparison to all other slate sites in the region, had of course the crucial advantage of being linked to the national railroads, a major condition in 1900 for developing a local trade into a flourishing national and international industry.
For more information opening hours and contact information please visit www.ardoise.lu.