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François Wouters' Home Page

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1985 Zinc roaster Vieille Montagne in Balen Belgium.

Vieille Montagne, Zinc mining in Belgium.

Registered member since 24th Feb 2014

François Wouters has uploaded:
575 Mineral Photos
88 Locality Photos
8 Other Photos
My name is François Wouters, I was born in 1956.
I am a retired production supervisor at the zinc roaster plant in Balen, Belgium.
Now I'm mainly occupied with the history of the former zinc group Vieille Montagne.
I study the old production methods and collect zinc minerals from the "Vieille Montagne-concession-Moresnet".

My gallery: "Vieille Montagne, mining for zinc".
In my 35 years of employment at the Roasting Plant of Vieille Montagne, I came into contact with zinc sulphide or sphalerite on a daily basis, it being the raw material for the production of zinc. Balen used to receive zinc ores from all over the world.
Today, the zinc roasting plant of Vieille Montagne in Balen is a part of Nyrstar. It stil produces on a yearly base 260,000 ton of pure zinc metal.
To commemorate 125 years Vieille Montagne Balen-Wezel we have made a website about the history of the zinc factory in Balen-Wezel.
Personally, I took care of the "Photo Gallery". For this I could draw from my personal archive of almost 2,000 photographs.

1908 Vieille Montagne zinc plant Balen-Wezel.

I am currently retired and since I have time to spare, I saw this as an opportunity to do some research into the history of Vieille Montagne. This inevitably leads me to "Moresnet" and VM's first zinc mine "Altenberg".

1843 Altenberg Open Cut Zinc Mine.

Altenberg Mine, Kelmis, Liège, Wallonia, Belgium

"Neutral-Moresnet", in Kelmis, (La Calamine), was an independent state for a little over a century until, in 1920, there came an end to its independence and it became a part of Belgium. An open zinc mine was located in Neutral-Moresnet that had been exploited for centuries for the production of “galmei”. The mine itself was named “Altenberg” in German and “Vieille Montagne” in French.

1875 Altenberg Zinc mine and associated zinc plant.

Altenberg Mine, Kelmis, Liège, Wallonia, Belgium

Galmei or calamine is a mix of zinc silicates and carbonates, smithsonite, hemimorphite and willemite.It was used in the production of “brass”, which in turn is a mixture of copper and zinc.

When at a later stage, a new method had been developed to process sulphides into zinc, zinc sulphide was mined in other mines within the VM-concession. Of these, “Schmalgraf” is the mine the most well known.

The zinc sulphide occurred typically in the form of “Schalenblende”.

A big part of my modest collection, originates from the area of the old Vieille-Montagne concession.

Since the last zinc mines in that area have been closed down for over a century, it is difficult to obtain collectable pieces. Now and then, one might stumble across something somewhere on a dump or in a field, but this is rather exceptional. The main method of obtaining pieces is through old collections or museums; this is why we often end up in the category of “Old classics”.

My collection aims to make the history of the old zinc mines more tangible and accessible.
As a matter of principle, one nice sample of each mineral ought to suffice...
But oh well, we are all human and sometimes things get a bit out of hand.

François Wouters

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