The “Carreau Wendel” coal mine consists of two different sites, the “Carreau Wendel” proper and the “Carreau Vuillemin”, both located in la Petite-Rosselle in the French Departement de la Moselle (Note that the word “carreau” translates as pithead, i.e. the top of a mineshaft, in English). In what follows we will use the name “Carreau Wendel” to refer to both these sites. The Carreau Wendel sits on top of the Sarrois-Lorrain coalfield, but even though the Carreau Wendel and the Carreau Vuillemin were close neighbours, they exploited two different coal seams, separated by a fault line.
In 1846 Charles de Wendel (1809-1870) and the Parisian businessman James Georges Tom Hainguerlot (1795-1868) bought the coal mining concession of Schœneck (about 10km from la Petite-Roselle). Surveys proved positive, and in 1851 Wendel and Hainguerlot formed a limited company to exploit the concession, authorized in 1853 as the “Compagnie des houillères de Stiring” (Stiring Coal Mines). Wendel and Hainguerlot quickly undertook new surveys in order to exploit these coal deposits, by sinking the shafts of St. Martha and St. Stéphanie near Stiring in 1849. Unfortunately, this work turned out to be disappointing and these shafts were abandoned between 1853 and 1854. Charles De Wendel, with the help of the engineer Emile Vuillemin (1822-1902), then decided to prospect further west, at Petite-Rosselle, where the sinking of the St Charles I shaft began in 1854. This attempt proved successfull and from 1856, the well began to produce coal of excellent quality. The same year, a research well was dug 1.5 kilometers south-east of St Charles. Named “the Urselsbrunn shaft”, the latter led to the sinking of 4 different shafts between 1862 and 1889:
- the Wendel 1 shaft, an extraction shaft with a depth of 767m, was sunk between 1866 and 1869
- the Wendel 2 shaft, a ventilation shaft, results from the deepening of the Urselsbrunn shaft and becomes operational in 1871. It eventually reached a depth of 773m
- the Vuillemin 1 shaft, a service and ventilation shaft, with a depth of 883m became operational in 1876
- the Vuillemin 2 shaft, an extraction shaft with a depth 773m, came into operation in 1881.
Over time, the “Compagnie des Houillères de Stiring” came under the total control of the Wendel family before its dissolution in 1889. The company’s assets thus passed into the ownership of the “Société des Petits-fils de François de Wendel et Cie.” , based in Hayange. Specialized in the steel industry, the latter founded a new company to manage its coal mines: the “Compagnie des Houillères de Petite-Rosselle”. At the beginning of the 20th century, new soundings carried out in Stiring led to the sinking of the Simon 1 and 2 shafts which led to the creation of the Siege Simon. The “Compagnie des Houillères de Petite-Rosselle” now owned 6 coal mines, namely the Carreau Wendel, the Carreau Vuillemin, the Siege Simon, the Siege Gargan, the Siege St. Charles and the Siege St. Joseph, which produced more than 3.8 million tons of coal each year. Most of this was destined for the steelworks owned by the Wendel family. At that time, the Wendel family was one of the most important if not the most important industrial families in France. In 1834, the Wendels produced about 1% of French iron. By 1870 they produced 11.2%, and were the largest iron operation in France. At the time of his death, Wendel et Cie employed some 7,000 workers and produced 134,500 tons of pig iron and 112,500 tons of iron a year.
In 1935, the discovery of a deep fatty coal deposit lead to the development of the Wendel shaft No. 3. However, the sinking of this shaft was interrupted by the Second World War. A the end of World War II, in 1946, the Carreau Wendel was integrated into the “Houillères du Bassin de Lorraine”, a public company, as part of the nationalization of all French coal mines. Having been interrupted by the World War II, work on the shaft No. 3 resumed in 1947 and was completed in 1952, when it reached a depth of 900m. It was also during this time that the Carreau Wendel and the Carreau Vuillemin were modernised. A flotation wash house was installed at the Carreau Wendel in 1955 and new metal headframes and extraction machines were installed.
The Vuillemin No. 1 and Wendel No. 1 shafts were renovated between 1950 and 1955. They received new metal headframes and electric extraction machines with Venot bi-cylindrical conical drums driven by 3,160 hp ALSTHOM engines. The Wendel No. 2 shaft received a similar installation but with a Koepe pulley and a 10.5 t skip to bring up the coal. In 1953, the Wendel No. 3 shaft came into service, its headframe was equipped with four wheels. It receives two skips of 13 t each and two cages with four trays. It was powered by two 3800 hp ALSTHOM electric extraction machines equipped with Koepe pulleys.
In 1960, 5000 miners worked at the Carreau Wendel and they exctracted about 10000 tonnes of coal daily. However, in the sixties, the Carreau Vuillemin, the Siege Gargan, the Siege St. Charles and the Siege St. Joseph closed their doors. In 1989, despite its importance, the Carreau Wendel closed its doors for good, leading to a logistics consolidation at the Simon headquarters, which then became the company’s only operating coalmine.