The origins of our expertise

At its foundation, Ineris was given the scientific and technical mission to prevent risks of environmental damage and it carries out this task by harnessing the solid experience of its past. A look back at the beginnings of integrated expertise.

The French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks was formed in 1990 from the merger of two public institutions, the French Centre for Studies and Research into Collieries (Cerchar), created in 1947, and the Institute of Applied Chemical Research (Ircha), created in 1957.
The decree that established the Institute detailed its mission as follows: " to conduct or oversee studies and research aimed at preventing the risks to health, environment, and the safety of people and goods caused by economic activities.”

Beginnings in mining health and safety


Overview of the Cerchar site - circa 1955

The history of Cerchar is inextricably linked to the Courrières disaster, which occurred on March 10, 1906, near Lens in the mining region of Pas-de-Calais. The deadliest mining disaster in Europe was caused by a dust explosion that devastated 110 km of coal mines and killed at least 1099 victims.
Research into mining safety thus became a public priority and was the primary scientific and technical objective of Cerchar, which inherited the stations which carried out tests on the explosions at Liévin in Pas-de-Calais (1907), Montluçon in Allier (1920), and Villers-Saint-Paul in Oise (1924).
Cerchar’s research into mining health and safety formed the foundation of the expertise that would then gradually be applied to other economic activities with the decline of the mining industry.

Cerchar’s work

Experiments conducted to understand the formation of gas and dust explosions (“firedamp explosions”)

  • Safety tests on explosion-proof equipment, as mining equipment began to run on electricity;
  • Evaluating the performance of aeration and ventilation systems;
  • Studying the physical and chemical properties of coal;
  • Measuring dust and firedamp in the air inside mines;
  • Studying the effects of respiratory illnesses related to pneumoconiosis (lung disease caused by the inhalation of mineral dust), including the infamous “black lung disease” and silicosis (inhalation of silica dust);
  • Analysing the stability of subterranean works (shafts, galleries, pillars, chambers, etc.);
  • Studying new uses for coal (coal gasification processes, etc.);
  • Evaluating environmental impacts generated by coal use (on water, air, etc.).

Ircha’s contributions in environmental chemistry

  • Ircha’s expertise contributed to Ineris' expertise more specifically based on environmental risk, in the sense of “the impact on natural surroundings.”;
  • Ircha’s work was developed from expertise in physical chemistry (simultaneous study of physical and chemical properties of matter), in measuring water and air quality (studies of industrial waste), and in ecotoxicology (studying the toxic effects of chemical substances on ecosystems).