Further to the kerfuffle about so-called ³destruction of mines² in the
Oisans, and the reprobation I always seem to suscitate when i mention
³bandit mineralogists², here is the state of play as of today.
The Municipality of Bourg d¹Oisans launched a hysterical online petition
against the State Mining Office who were legally bound to ensure security in
these mines. Here is my original mail in response to Peter¹s first alert
about his affair :
³It's a long and sad story, Peter. Since about 1997, the French Industry
Ministry has been methodically blowing up open mines when they have no known
concessionnaire, as they are then presumed to be the responsibility of the
State. At that time I was President of the French mining archaeological
association and after lots of lobbying we got the Culture Ministry to make a
firm stand, and insist that confirmed mining archaeologists make a diagnosis
of each site, and recommend one of three options ; destruction after full
recording (the most widespread, concerning scrapings and holes in the
ground) ; inscription on alist of "archaeological reserves" and closed off
by reversible means (iron doors, etc) ; or sites of national importance,
needing full recording, epxloration, dig, and valorisation. This last
concerned very very few sites, of which La Gardette - Le Pontet was one.
My colleague Bruno Ancel made the diagnostic in 2001, and the municipality
of Bourg d'Oisans (which would be legally responsible for the mine if it was
declared of cultural importance and not destroyed) was urged to start a
consulting process of interested parties (French geological survey, Culture
Ministry regional representatives, mine archaeology experts etc etc). One or
two meetings were held , but as in all cases where there is no clear
political lead given, nothing much happened ; Bruno's very full report
clearly showed the importance of the site, but the municipality much prefer
holding Mineral Fairs and encouraging so-called "geology" study tours which
include robbing minerals. The geologists did nothing but cry over spilt
milk, of the mineralogists, only one was brave enough to stand up and loudly
reclaim that the site was where the mineralogy community was freely robbing
the site of quartz crystals and that they wished to continue freely, and
that they would blow up any reversible closure. The only ones to take a
serious stance were the bat protection people from the Environment Ministry,
who as usual were much clearer in their demands for protection for the bats.
In any case valorisation of the site will be very difficult given the access
and security aspects.
So after three years of inactivity the Industry Ministry is forclosing on
the affair, and there is legally nothing that can be done, unless the
central services of the Culture Ministry take a hand, which they won't
because they are sick and tired of these vexatious mining archaeologists who
worry at their heels all the time...
Well, the uproar was quite considerable and the Authorities announced that
since the Municipality seemed suddenly anxious to take on all responsibility
for these mines (including impeaching access by the big business mineral
men), then they would stop the closing-off process and hand over
responsibility to the Town.
Today¹s local paper has revealed that the group of mineral bandits signing
the petition and making all the fusss about open access have just been
nabbed by the Old Bill with15 sticks of dynamite, 500 m of fuse, 200
electric detonators and ³several dozen tonnes² of ³mascle de La Gardette²
(pure rock crystals ), hidden away in their houses ; these are no ³honest
Johns² quietly hoarding small specimens for posterity and the reputation of
³knowledgeable enthusiast² ; these are big businessmen, such as one can see
at every Mineral Fayre in France, and notably that held by..the town of
Bourg d¹Oisans (lol). French mining archaeologists have been denouncing
these unsavoury characters for over twenty years..this recent affair has
blown the lid off it.
>> Agence France Press of yesterday
>> "Neuf cristalliers interpellés pour extraction illégale et trafic de quartz
>> Neuf cristalliers, qui depuis plusieurs années extrayaient des cristaux,
>> notamment du quartz de haute qualité, dans des vieilles mines des massifs de
>> l'Oisans et du Vercors, ont été interpellés et placés en garde à vue, a
>> indiqué jeudi la gendarmerie.
>> Trois d'entre eux devraient être présentés au magistrat instructeur de
>> Grenoble vendredi, ajoute la même source. Ils pourraient être poursuivies
>> pour infractions au code minier, infraction au code l'environnement et
>> infraction à la législation sur les explosifs.
>> Plus de 300 containeurs de cristaux ont été saisis. Le trafic porterait sur
>> plusieurs tonnes de quartz d'une qualité exceptionnelle de par sa
>> transparence et la forme des cristaux, selon la même source.
>> © 2005 AF <http://grenoble.wanadoo.fr//#> "