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Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
France closes its last coal mine
A miner at the La Houve coal mine
Around 400 miners at La Houve will lose their jobs
The final shovelful of coal has been mined in France, bringing to an end an industry nearly 300 years old.

A last, symbolic block of coal was dug out at the La Houve mine, kicking off three days of events to mark the end of coal mining in France.

The mine, near the town of Creutzwald on the German border, is the last of an industry that once employed 300,000 and fuelled France's industrial revolution.

Nuclear power now provides 80% of the country's energy needs.

"I understand the feeling of sadness that the men have today," said Industry Minister Patrick Devedjian, who attended the ceremony and was given a tour of the mine.

On Sunday there will be a mass to honour miners who died while working.

The ceremonies and underground visits are expected to attract around 100,000 visitors.

Coveted resource

The coalfields were once a bedrock of the French political left, mining communities providing recruiting grounds for the country's powerful Socialist and Communist parties.

The coalfields of Alsace and Lorraine were coveted by Germany in three wars between 1870 and 1945.

In World War II, miners swelled the ranks of the legendary French resistance.

The industry's fate was sealed in the 1960s when France committed itself to a nuclear future.

The 400 miners of La Houve will lose their jobs, but under a special deal, those who have served more than 20 years in the mine will have their salaries and housing paid by the state until they reach the age of retirement.

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19 Mar 04  |  Nottinghamshire
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11 Mar 04  |  Business


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