Mindat Logo

Belgium, Calcite paradise

Last Updated: 16th Mar 2009

Belgium, Calcite paradise

The mountainous regions of Belgium (mainly south of the Sambre and Meuse rivers) consist for the greater part of Limestone plateaus.
Although there are other types of geologic environments in Belgium, for example the metamorphic rocks encountered in several ereas of the Ardennes mountains and the eruptive rock in the Hainaut province where Calcite crystals have been found, the mainstay of Belgian Calcite specimens are being found in Devonian and Dinantian Limestone.
For ages Belgian Limestone has been exploited in quarries, nowadays mainly for building purposes like road construction, ornamental stones and concrete but also for the glass, food and chemical industries.
From the middle ages onwards (and probably even earlier) Belgium also has been a prime source for marble, actually it’s not a genuine marble but a dense and hard limestone that shows very appealing ornamental patterns.
Especially the red “marble” found around Rochefort and the black “marble” encountered around Yvoir where in high demand and got exported throughout Europe (the word goes that there’s Belgian marble in St Peter‘s church in Rome)

Calcite from the Dinantian Limestone

The Dinantian Limestone has been very rich in world class localities for Calcite, and to a certain extend remains as such.
In Biesmeree, Bioul, Denee and Haut-le-Wastia Calcite crystals (mainly scalenohedral habits) have been found that rival any in the world.

Calcite
Biesmerée
Mettet, Namur Province, Belgium




Calcite
Haut-le-Wastia
Anhée, Namur Province, Belgium



A vug with a very large scalenohedron in Haut-le-Wastia I worked in 2007



Haut-le-Wastia quarry in 2007



Sadly most of the quarrying operations have ceased their operations and only the quarry in Haut-le-Wastia shows some sporadic activity.
A little bit to the east, north of Dinant (the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone!) there are several quarries.
Close to the abbey of Leffe (famous for it’s trappist beer) lies the Montorguill quarry, from there exceptionally large Calcites up to 40cm have been found in scalenohedral as well as rhombohedral habits, the quarry remains in operation and is run by the Gralex company.

Calcite
Montorgueil Quarry (Leffe Quarry)
Dinant, Namur Province, Belgium







A little to the north some active quarries remain exploiting the dark compact limestone around the town of Yvoir.
The so called “Pierre Bleu” or “blackstone” is used for ornamental use.
Due to the compact nature of the rock very little cavities are encountered and when so they are usually very small, therefore the Calcites found in them are quite small but nevertheless very attractive.
To the north-east from Yvoir the Pierre Bleu zone continues almost to Liege, especially around the townships of Sprimont and Chanxhe there remain several active quarries that exploite the Pierre Bleu for ornamental stones, the coarser limestone encountered alongside the Pierre Bleu yields gravel as a by-product.

Calcite
Chanxhe quarry
Sprimont, Liège Province, Belgium



Large vug in Chanxhe quarry, my head for scale ;-) photo by Frank de Wit



To the west we encounter the town of Charleroi, a large somewhat decaying centre for mainly steel industry which flourished in the 19th and first halve of the 20th centuries but rapidly declined since the 1950s creating a large unemployed population, remaining so to this day.
Around Charleroi there are several active quarries and a multitude of closed ones.
Some of the best Calcites in the world (in my humble opinion…) came from two quarries that are situated closely together a couple of miles west of Charleroi.
One of them, the “la Sambre” quarry on the banks of the Sambre river in Landelies remains active whereas the other one, the Gralex quarry in Mont-sur-Marchienne ceased it’s operations about ten years ago.
The limestone in these two quarries is very pure and therefore very suitable for use in the glass, chemical and nutrition industries as well as for agricultural purposes.
In these quarries Calcites have been found in an extremely large variety of forms and habits, the crystals can be up to 20cm large and the colour ranges from colourless, yellow, orange, amber to dark brown.
In 2008 Calcite crystals could be found that showed a very distinct and appealing olive green colour, they remain a rarity.

Calcite
La Sambre Quarry
Landelies, Montignies-le-Tilleul, Hainaut (Henegouwen; Hennegau) Province, Belgium















La Sambre quarry in winter 2009



Calcite
Gralex Quarry
Mont-sur-Marchienne, Charleroi, Hainaut (Henegouwen; Hennegau) Province, Belgium





Large pieces with big scalenohedrons as well as beautiful clear twins have been collected during the time when the Solvay quarry (a little south of Charleroi, between the townships of Loverval and Couillet) was still in operation.

Close to the town of Namur one also finds several quarries, the best Calcites of that area came from the Gralex quarry of Beez, although the quality of these nice scalenohedrons found in the 1980s has not been surpassed since.

Calcite
Beez
Namur, Namur Province, Belgium





Nice Calcites have also been found in the quarries of Sclayn and Maizeret both situated between Namur and Liege.

The Devonian Limestone

South of the Meuse river there is a large Devonian limestone plateau covering the Fagne and Famenne regions.
Especially nice Calcites have been found in the so called “Calestienne” region which covers a part of the Fagne and Famenne between the provincial towns of Rochefort (again famous for it’s trappist beer!) in the east , Couvin in the west and Givet (on the border with France) to the south.
The Calestienne region is very rich in Pb, Zn, Cu, Fe and Fluorite deposits and all of these have been exploited over the ages.
Nowadays the only exploitation is done on Limestone for building purposes.
Very nice Calcite crystals have (sporadically) come out of the quarries around the small village of Wellin, about ten km west of Rochefort.
Two quarries that are located only a mile apart from each other remain in operation, one of them, the “Fond des Vaulx” quarry can be visited after applying for an authorisation, the other one, the “Limites” quarry is closed for mineral collecting and therefore should not be visited.
Not surprisingly the two quarries show a similar paragenesis.
In 2005 they worked a zone with exceptionally large Brachiopod fossils that contained splendid lustrous colourless calcite crystals very reminiscent to the old specimens found in Cumberland.
Notable minerals that accompany the Calcites are especially Fluorite (in highly lustrous purple, yellow and sometimes green crystals), Celestine, Sphalerite and Marcasite.

Calcite
Fond des Vaulx quarry
Wellin, Luxembourg Province, Belgium









Fond des Vaulx quarry in 2007



Quite close to Wellin, on the banks of the Lesse river, we find the now closed quarry of Resteigne, from there abundant and very nice Calcite appeared as well over the years.

Calcite
La Lesse Quarry
Resteigne, Tellin, Luxembourg Province, Belgium



View from la Lesse quarry towards the chateau



Apart from the outstanding localities mentioned above some nice Calcite specimens occasionally came out of some other localities, I won’t mention them all but some should be noted.
In Engis, close to the town of Liege, very nicely formed Calcites where found in an array of forms.
Also Rhisnes produced nice Calcite in the past.
Around Antoing very large quarries sometimes deliver large scalenohedrons and honey coloured rhombohedral crystals.

Calcite
Antoing
Tournai (Doornijk), Hainaut (Henegouwen; Hennegau) Province, Belgium



During the mining operations around Moresnet-Vielle Montagne abundant Calcite has been found although the dominant carbonate there was Smithsonite (and is famous for that mineral)

Interesting internet resources on Belgian Calcite:

-Jose Dehove's site: http://perso.infonie.be/jose.dehove/photos/index.htm
-Jean-Marc Jonville's site: http://www.calcite.be/
-Luc van Bellingen's site: http://www.fossiliraptor.be/
-Michel Blondieau's site: http://membres.lycos.fr/minbe/
-Marc Henrotin's site: http://users.skynet.be/belgafossmine/
-Jacques Evlard's site: http://www.artistones1.be/chapitres/collection_j_evlard/calcite/liste_belgique.htm [Link Broken? Dec 2014]
-Ingo Loeffler's site: http://www.the-crystalminer.com/ [Link Broken? Dec 2014]
-CMPB (the Brussels mineral club): http://www.cmpb.net/
-Strahlen.org: http://www.strahlen.org/


Epilogue

But probably the best thing about prospecting for world class Calcite specimens in Belgium is that one can combine that with drinking the world famous Belgian beer!

Hundreds of Belgian beers!!: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lijst_van_Belgische_bieren

Harjo Neutkens (c) 2009








Article has been viewed at least 19300 times.

Comments

Great article, great photos, and very informative.
I really like the divirsity of calcites from the La Sambre Mine.
AK

Adam Kelly
18th Mar 2009 12:01am
Thank you for this article!

Mikael Gonzales
16th Apr 2009 4:23am

In order to leave comments to this article, you must be registered
Mineral and/or Locality  
Search Google  
Copyright © Jolyon Ralph and Ida Chau 1993-2014. Site Map. Locality, mineral & photograph data are the copyright of the individuals who submitted them. Site hosted & developed by Jolyon Ralph. Mindat.org is an online information resource dedicated to providing free mineralogical information to all. Mindat relies on the contributions of thousands of members and supporters. Mindat does not offer minerals for sale. If you would like to add information to improve the quality of our database, then click here to register.
Current server date and time: December 20, 2014 18:42:06
Mineral and Locality Search
Mineral:
and/or Locality:
Options
Fade toolbar when not in focusFix toolbar to bottom of page
Hide Social Media Links
Slideshow frame delay seconds