Coal has driven economic development in Europe for over two centuries. Its exploitation has influenced the physical establishment and social evolution of communities across the continent. But the decline in mining has meant that many of those communities are now losing their links with the coal-bearing rocks beneath their feet.
Upgrading and developing coalfield sites, landscapes and geological collections can help communities from mining areas to understand their historical roots. This geoheritage gives them valuable educational tools, and new opportunities for recreation and public amenity. After years of neglect, many former mining areas have also become havens for wildlife – increasingly recognised as important refuges for biodiversity.
Combined with traditional heritage tourism that is often well catered for in coalfield areas, geoheritage can provide a powerful stimulus to touristic activity – providing a major contribution to the sustainable development and regeneration of these areas.
ECCO is a growing network of European projects that are using coalfield geoheritage for the benefit of local communities and the wider environment. We aim to encourage links between well-established and embryonic projects, to help promote such initiatives and exchange ideas about best practice.