75 years of public expertise in industrial safety

Charbonnages de France, at the origin of the Institute, via the Centre d'études et de recherches (Centre for Studies and Research (Cerchar)), would have celebrated its 75th anniversary on 17 May 2021.

When France was liberated after the war, private mining companies were nationalised as part of the National Resistance Council’s programme. The law on nationalisation of the mineral fuels industry was adopted on 17 May 1946.
It led to the creation of a new body, Charbonnages de France, whose mission was to coordinate a federation of 9 coal mining areas: Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Lorraine, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Blanzy, Cévennes, Dauphiné, Loire and Provence.

Le Centre d'études et de recherches of Charbonnages de France (Cerchar) for safety of mining work

In 1947, the Centre d'études et de recherches of Charbonnages de France (Cerchar) was created. Its mission was to direct, develop and coordinate the technical and scientific research of Charbonnages de France. As a major research centre, it has served as a breeding ground for technological developments devoted to scientific issues that cannot be studied in mines. It worked on respiratory diseases (lung diseases caused by inhaling coal dust) as well as focusing on a range of uses for coal.
Cerchar’s research into mine-related health and safety were the foundation of its expertise and, with the decline of the mining industry, this was progressively applied to other areas of economic activity.
The founder and first Director was Etienne Audibert (1888-1954), who was also the Chairman of Charbonnages of France in 1948.

“The stages in the process where Audibert played a significant role, as a result of his dealings with Public Authorities and mine directors, were firstly the inclusion in the nationalisation law of 1946 of Charbonnages de France’s research responsibility, followed by the creation, on 1st July 1947, as part of the legal framework of Charbonnages de France of Cerchar, with responsibility for all research to be carried out in the area. Audibert took over the running of laboratories in Montluçon and Villers-Saint-Paul, and immediately developed their staff as much as their humble facilities would allow. Audibert saw the need to create a major central research Establishment. Audibert, as Cerchar’s Chief Executive, ensured that a single fund, financed by mining contributions, would be devoted both to investments and to operational costs. Taking his inspiration from the best of what was being done abroad, specifically at the Dutch Research Centre, he drew up a plan in several phases, to be built on a huge area. The first phase of construction was from September 1948 to June 1950. An extra wing was built in 1951-1952. The construction and equipment of the Centre de Verneuil bore comparison with the best French and foreign research centres”.

Extract from the Mine Annals