First phase of be-NATURE begun: special cycling experience among coal washes at be-MINE

Work started today for the unique cycling experience under the coal washes at be-MINE. The rough tracks for the coal wagons of the past will be transformed there into gentle walking and cycling paths. Walkers and cyclists can thus literally traverse the coal washeries. It is impressive because the coal washes stand on columns 5 meters high and form a covered outdoor space of 10,000m². This location is the gateway to the future coal railroad and Limburg’s mining history. It also connects to the iconic Kempenroute bicycle route and the bicycle route network.

The Coal Laundries – the heart of the coal mine at be-MINE – is where the coal used to be processed. The building complex stands on columns so the coal wagons can drive under them, fill them with coal, and leave for the coal port again. Meanwhile, the coal washes are idle, but with the start of the first phase of the be-NATURE project, there will soon be plenty of life again.

The complex, rough railroad lines of yesteryear will now be reintroduced as soft walkways as well as a bicycle path, which will take visitors through the parking zone to under the building complex of the coal laundries. Karolien Sas, general manager of be-MINE: “The bicycle experience starts at be-MINE unusually strong. Along the experience bike path, cyclists can cycle under the coal laundries, just as coal wagons used to do. The visitor immediately sees the grandeur of the building complex: cyclists pedal under more than 10,000m² of covered outdoor space, between a forest of concrete columns 5 meters high on which the immense building complex rests.”

Industrial heritage and natural beauty

With the arrival of this bicycle path, be-MINE will become accessible from the heart in four directions. It forms the missing connection between the coal port on the Albert Canal and Beringen Center. In addition, the bike path connects to the iconic Kempen route and the bicycle route network.

The bike path will be constructed from the existing bike path on the site’s north side and will make its way over the existing tracks between the rough, ecological park zone to under the load. A 200-space bicycle parking area will be provided there. The bike path will then continue between the rigid concrete structure of the coal washes until it reaches the Retail parking lot. Here, the cycle path towards Beringen will be connected.

The total length of the new bike path is approximately 300 meters and is mainly constructed from a non-slip grid that will be placed on top of the historic tracks. This way, the heritage value is optimally preserved, and the historical tracks and concrete floors can still be observed.

“Today we are kicking off a truly unique cycling experience,” said the Flemish tourism minister. “Walkers and cyclists can literally cross the coal washes here. It will be a cycling tour that connects industrial heritage and natural beauty. Moreover, the route will connect nicely with the iconic cycling route ‘Kempenroute’ and the bicycle route network. In short, this will be the ideal gateway for visitors from home and abroad to get acquainted with Limburg’s mining past.”


Gateway to Limburg’s mining past

Thomas Vints, mayor of Beringen, is also enthusiastic: “This bicycle path forms an important link for Beringen because it creates an additional experience on the be-MINE site. The visitor cycles, as it were, through Beringen’s mining past. The ideal way to discover both be-MINE and Beringen-Mine. The bike path will become even more attractive when the Town of Beringen reinstates the old locomotive – which used to run on the tracks in Beringen – along here.”

“This is the beginning of a bicycle tour through Limburg’s mining history. After all, be-MINE is the most western mining site in Limburg and is therefore also the first mining site that visitors from the directions of Antwerp or Brussels will encounter,” adds Karolien Sas. “It is, therefore, no coincidence that be-MINE is being given the function of a gateway from which visitors can discover Limburg’s mining history. This can also be done by bicycle via the coal track, a physical bicycle connection that will link all mining sites in the future. Cyclists can already grease their calves because they can cycle from Beringen to Maasmechelen, which is even longer than the Belgian coast.”

Tom Vanham, general director of the Limburg investment company LRM, is also pleased with the bike path: “This bike path forms an important added value for the mining site and Limburg. With its 100,000m² of existing building heritage, be-MINE is the largest industrial heritage site in Flanders and unique in Europe. The redevelopment we realize here with be-MINE nv (a collaboration between LRM and the private developers Ciril and Van Roey Vastgoed) is becoming increasingly tangible. Besides creating an experience, we also want to develop be-NATURE in an economically sustainable way. Just think of ’boutique’ hospitality or leisure activities.” 

This project is co-granted by Tourism Flanders as a relaunch project around Recreational and Sportive cycling with a focus on experience elements along the nine iconic cycling routes. The contractor who will carry out the work is the BMS group from Bilzen. The works will be completed by mid-October 2024.

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