France Mining Industry

By | February 11, 2022

In France, industry develops more and more, without, however, exercising such an important function there as in England and Germany; the percentage of its industrial and urban population rose from 25% in 1850, to 42% in 1911, to 46.4 in 1921. The French subsoil is not devoid of raw materials: coal is extracted in almost sufficient quantities for the consumption of workshops; following the annexation of the mining basin of Lorraine, France has become the richest European country in iron; it also has abundant reserves of white coal. Forced to import most of the raw materials needed by the textile industry (linen, hemp, wool), it makes up for this defect thanks to the skill and taste of its industrialists,

Coal. – While remaining far from the coal production of England (about 250 million tons) and Germany (about 150 million), France is among the European states that produce it in greater quantities: 51,365,000 tons. in 1928, 53,736,000 in 1929, 53,884,000 tons. in 1930. Its coalfields cover 550,000 ha., and are distributed in various groups: a series of small basins are located on the edge of the Massif Central (Alès, Bessège, Saint-Étienne, Le Creusot, Commentry, Aubin, Decazeville, Carmaux, Graissessac); in the North, in continuation of the Belgian coal basin, there are the basins of the North (Anzin-Valenciennes) and of the Pas-de-Calais (Lens, Béthune, Liévin), much more important for the extension, for the power of the reserves and for the value of production which represents more than half of the total. L’ coal mining began in France at the time of Colbert and progressed slowly: in 1789 not even a hundredth part of the quantity of product they currently produce was obtained from the French mines. During the sec. XIX production gradually increased: it was 1,940,000 tons. in 1820, of 3,000,000 tons. in 1840, of 8,300,000 tons. in 1860, of 19,300,000 tons. in 1880, of 33,400,000 tons. in 1910, of 40,800,000 tons. in 1913. Before the war the northern region alone produced 66% of French hard coal. During the war the production figure dropped sharply: in 1915 it was 18,855,000 tons; in 1916 of 20,540,000 tons, in 1918 of 26,259,000 tons It then rose considerably starting from 1921, with the reconstitution of the invaded mines and with the return to the normal state of those not invaded: in 1924 it had already reached 44 million tons, in 1926 it exceeded 51 million tons. To the French production must be added the production of the Sarre mines, which with the Treaty of Versailles was assigned to France for 15 years. This production in 1929 was 13,579,000 tons. In a few years, therefore, France has re-established its situation with respect to hard coal; but production is always lower than consumption (by 23 million tons).

Iron ores. – France, with its 50 million tons. of iron ores, occupies the second place among the large producing countries, coming after the United States (70 million tons) and leaving England, Sweden and Germany far behind. The extraction of iron minerals has always been and still is more intense in the Lorraine part of the Marches de l’Est. It dates from the Middle Ages, but did not make noticeable progress before the century. XIX. On the eve of the war of 1870, the proximity of the Sarre coal mines encouraged the iron industry. The mining of the mineral alongside the hillocks and slopes of the Moselle côtes, at the upper limit of the Lias, extended from Nancy to Longwy: it is known that the outcrops of the minette Lorraine determined the layout of the frontier of 1871. Beyond this frontier, imposed by Germany, the owners of French ironworks discovered, deep under the Jurassic strata of the Briey plateau, a rich basin of iron ores, which in 1913 gave 17 million tons.

Until 1907, France did not produce sufficient iron ore for its consumption and had to buy mainly in Germany, Belgium and Spain; in that year, for the first time, the export of French minerals exceeded the importation of foreign minerals. The military operations of the years 1914-18 caused a huge decrease in production; but on the other hand, the return to France of the regions annexed by Germany in 1871 increased the possibilities of extraction by 100%. The Lorraine fields, which alone represent 95% of the total French production, yielded in 1928: the Metz-Thionville basin, 20,404,000 tons; the Longwy-Briey basin, over 25,000,000 tons; the Nancy basin, approximately one million tonnes; in the same year the secondary basins produced: the Normandy basin, 1. 300,000 tons; the basin of Anjou and Brittany, about 650,000 tons; the Pyrenees basin, 180,000 tons. French iron ore production has rapidly increased in recent years: from 28.9 million tons in 1924 it rose to 35.7 in 1925, to 39.4 in 1926, to 45.4 in 1927, to 49, 0 in 1928, to 50.5 in 1929; in 1930 the production was 48.4 million tons. of mineral.

Other minerals. – According to, the French production of copper ores can be said to be of no account: 12,000 tons. for a consumption of 100,000. The lead produced in France is mainly obtained from the mines of Pontpéan (Ille-et-Vilaine) and Pontgibaud (Puy-de-Dôme) and a certain quantity is given by the departments of Lozère, the Hautes-Alpes, Aveyron and Corsica.. The total production, somewhat fluctuating from one year to the next (11,800 tons in 1927; 24,500 in 1928; 12,100 in 1929; 19,200 in 1930), is in any case far from sufficient for the consumption of workshops dedicated to lead metallurgy, especially of those of Coueron (Ille-et-Vilaine) and of Noyelles-Godault (Pas-de-Calais). The deficit it is filled with imports from Belgium, England, Mexico and Germany. The mines of Malines (Gard) and of Bormettes (Varo) have the main centers for the extraction of zinc ores (the total French production of zinc ores reached 92,000 tons in 1928). The mineral is processed in the workshops of Viviez (Aveyron), d’Auby (North) and Noyelles-Godault. The French production of tin ores is of no importance, the Allier and Creuse mines give just a few tons, and the tin is then processed in the workshops of Dives and Harfleur. On a world production of approximately 28,000 tons. of antimony, the Auvergne, Mayenne and Vendée workshops supply 2,250 tons. In 1913 only two countries were major producers of bauxite: the United States (213,000 tons) and France (309,000 tons). After 1919 French production and consumption developed strongly and recently France is again in first place in the world for the production of this mineral, which it gives in quantities of over 500,000 tons. (597,800 in 1928, 643,000 in 1929, 538,300 in 1930). Similarly, aluminum metallurgy made progress: between 1913 and 1925 French production increased from 13,500 to 18,400 tons. and continued to increase in the following years: 25,000 tons. in 1927, 26,400 in 1928, 29,000 in 1929. The workshops in Savoy supply 64% and those in the Hautes Alps 19% of the total production. France is very rich in salt. In 1924, which can be considered a normal year, the salt mines of the east (Lorraine, Jura) yielded 878,000 tons. and those of the SO. (Landes, Low Pyrenees, Haute Garonne) 57,000, ie a total of 935,000 tons; the salt mines yielded 415,000 tons, of which 355,000 were produced by the six Mediterranean departments and 60,000 by the Atlantic departments. In the last three years, the total production of salt has fluctuated between 930,000 and 1,150,000 tons. (1928, 1.148.000 tons.; 1929, 931.000 tons.; 1930, 1.004.000 tons.). There was no French potash industry before the war: Germany was then the only major producing country. But after 1918, with the return of Alsace and therefore of the deposits of the forest of Nonnenbruch (north of Mulhouse), France found in its subsoil not only all the potash it needed, but also a sufficient quantity to make the strong competition from German industry abroad: the production of Alsatian mines rose to 2,619,000 tons. in 1928. Consumption became widespread in the north, where, for the intensive cultivation of beet, farmers were forced to use large quantities of potassium fertilizers, as in the regions cultivated with vineyards and in the vegetable gardens (department of Vaucluse). Overall, the average consumption of potassium is relatively low and lower than that of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

France Mining Industry