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We visited the locality on 18-07-2005, and got an address to ask for permission to go underground there and see the limestone get worked...
And on 02-09-2005 it happened! We were guided underground, in the last active mine in the Netherlands, by Jac Diederen. We went into the older and active parts of the mine (not the oldest because those are instable and dangerous for visitors)... The mergel is still mined for building&renovating houses in the traditional way, and the leftover-'powder' is used for cement and fertilizer in the surrounding agriculture by the Kleijnen mergelbouwsteen company in Sibbe. We're therefore very grateful to Peter Kleijnen for the possibility to visit the mine.
Jac had a lot of interesting stories to tell about the Sibbergrub; he knows the mine as well as his backpocket! One of the tours he does is getting people inside the mine, turning the lights off and then learning them how to find their way out of the mine in the dark... That is not easy, but you can learn it. The blockbreakers always worked in one direction. You can feel that direction by very slowly walking with your hand on the wall. You can also hear it by the sound the floor makes when you're walking. You can hear it when you approach the 'corner 32', an important waymark/crossing in the mine.
Since the end of 2005 we have been visiting the mine every few weeks on friday evenings, taking a walk underground and having a nice conversation and afterwards a nice beer at 'Bill's place' in Valkenburg :-)
The mine is constructed in 'the form of lungs', and only with low galleries of about max.1.80 meters high. Very different than the Caestert which has long high galleries. The main galleries stretch like fingers into different directions (See a map of the mine here...). Each finger splits up into lung-structured systems of galleries, which are interconnected to other 'lungs'. Here the galleries are called 'vaarten' (difficult to translate but something like canals) through which the mergel was transported out of the mine.
Another big, difficult and timeconsuming, job he has is to measure up the mine and map it... You will see in the following pictures that over a thousand measuring points have already been made in the ceiling. Believe me, he knows every inch of this mine, and it's about 150 km long underground at the moment!
More information is with the pictures itself:
(text and pictures by Frank de Wit)
If the mergel is of the best quality, it makes a very nice sound by knocking on it...
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Also see: van Schaikstichting, Ed Stevenhagen, pietersberg.nl, roelonyolanda/mergelbouwsteen, troglocaris.com, etc etc
Mindat.org on this location.
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