Oldest Dutch cement works to close as Maastricht quarry returns to nature

The viewing platform is a popular tourist attraction. Photo: Kleon3 via Wikimedia Commons
The viewing platform is a popular tourist attraction. Photo: Kleon3 via Wikimedia Commons

The massive ENCI cement works at St Pietersburg on the edge of Maastricht is to close at the end of August after nearly 100 years.

Quarrying for limestone stopped in 2018 and since then raw materials for making cement have been delivered to the plant by ship. But the location is not suitable for bigger ships, and high maintenance costs have also contributed to the factory becoming loss-making.

‘Economically it makes sense, but from a local perspective, and for our team, it is a real shame,’ director Günther Gach told broadcaster NOS. The factory is part of the HeidelbergCement Group.

ENCI stands for Eerste Nederlandsche Cement Industrie and become operational in 1928. At the time it was the biggest cement works in Europe.

The quarry itself is being redeveloped as a nature reserve and place for recreation and visitors can already look out over the area from a viewing platform. ‘It is wonderful that this area is being returned to nature,’ Cindy Burger, of natural heritage organisation Natuurmonumenten told the broadcaster.

ENCI has two other cement works in the Netherlands, in Ijmuiden and Rotterdam, both of which will remain open.

LImestone, and its softer version marl, have been quarried in the St Pietersburg hill for 2,000 years. The marl digging, which began with the Romans, has led to the creation of a labyrinth of 20,000 tunnels and passageways, many of which are covered in graffiti dating back centuries and are now a popular tourist attraction.

Limburg’s other mining activities were closed down in the 1960s and 1970s.

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