To find a trace of coal, in Decazeville, you have to go to a dead end. The "impasse du Charbon". This is how the mayor, François Marty, wanted to baptize one of the thirteen streets of the new area of activity on the ground of the former steel and steel complex. He gave up. Too violent to bring the lives of thousands of former miners back to a dead end. The city council finally opted for the "passage of coal". To get there, take "Avenue du Futur" and turn onto "rue de la Renaissance". Here is the office of André Martinez, president of the community of DVG municipalities. The elected officials are not on the same side, but the message is not far away. "We have been a land of energy with coal, we want to become a land of renewable energy," says André Martinez.
Thirty-eight thousand photovoltaic panels were recently used by the mining industry. This solar power plant provides enough power to power 6,000 homes. It is difficult to imagine that nature, so green, has regained its rights in this circus modeled by men. Even the projects that use geothermal energy and others around the biomass are being developed. The old "black country" is becoming a green city … except that the city is still gray. The city center, in full rehabilitation, badly masks the crumbling facades, the abandoned houses, the devastated plasterwork.
Decazeville is in fact one of the small cities in decline, which the geographers call a diminishing city. After the brutal closure of the steel and iron and steel industries in 1987, the basin lost 3,000 jobs during the night. The city has grown from 15,000 over the years & # 39; 70 to 5,500 today. "Young people do not return when they go to study. There are fewer children there than elsewhere. We lose 100 inhabitants a year," says mayor François Marty. The basin has 1,800 empty and degraded houses. Today's jobs pay less than those in large factories where organized workers weighed against employers. People with low incomes, expelled from the metropolis or from the Mediterranean border, are more and more numerous to land in this city where the accommodation is not very expensive, still adding social difficulties to a general impoverishment.
The energy transition, a new industrial revolution of the territory
But there is also another reality in Decazeville, much less obvious. Industrial SMEs are experiencing a real rebound. This is the case of Snam, which has become the European leader in the recycling of automotive batteries. "By disintegrating the electric batteries, to recover 80% of the metals that make them up, we ended up knowing how to build them," says Eric Nottez, CEO of this Viviez-based company. Now it produces large stationary batteries, which are decisive for energy storage and the development of renewable energy, such as wind or solar energy, whose production is very volatile. Fifteen people have been hired since 1 January. In the long run, 680 jobs should be created by this phoenix project, which adds a little more to the basin in the energy transition. A new industrial revolution for this territory that knows the subject. It was in this basin that the rails of the first railway line of the Hexagon sank.
In Aubin, this glorious past is omnipresent in the city center. It is necessary to divert a little and go to school to measure the incredible resilience of the territory. Trainers and students, who develop the wood industry with local companies, have found a good vein: the black locust. This wood, used by miners to support the galleries, "has exceptional qualities, very resistant and naturally mold-proof", says Aurélien Beziat, managing director for vocational training of the institute. This wood, which is now alive in the old mining area, makes it possible to produce outdoor furniture without any treatment. The benches, developed by a designer and school teams, thanks to a state-of-the-art and state-of-the-art laboratory, will soon be marketed by a company from Aveyron. With the work on the key.
The success of STS could also be mentioned. Initially in charge of reclassifying former workers of the steel complex, this company started a mechanical activity with many disabled workers. Today he is subcontractor of Ratier, a 30 km aviation company in Figeac, for which he is preparing composite materials for the A400M blades. "It's not Zola here," insists Stephan Mazars, the head of the box, who comes out of a room full of technology, completely white, where the dust is over-controlled. Here too it assumes, as in many companies in the Mecanic Valley, a network of mechanical and aeronautical companies based between Brive and Rodez.
No coincidence for all this. Faced with cascading difficulties, it seems that the culture of solidarity, forged in this bastion of social struggle, has made osmosis an employer with strong ties on its territory. Business leaders, trade unionists and elected officials are also a united front here. Éric Nottez, CEO of Snam, was part of a delegation last week at the Ministry of Territorial Cohesion, along with CGT officials and elected officials, to promote local projects. Because the renewed economic dynamism, very real, is also threatened by policies implemented at national level. The Afpa antenna, being renovated, is transferred to Rodez. The hospital, which saw motherhood close in 2017 after years of struggle to save it, is weakened. "Today we can not assume and expand if we do not have reinsurance on a number of services in the area, if we do not have the guarantee that the hospital will work, that there is no general practitioners, training tools, a & # 39; adequate housing offer, "observes Éric Nottez. "Without a public service, there is no business, and no business, there is no longer any public service," says Pascal Mazet, caregiver and general secretary of the CGT departmental union. remember that in Decazeville everyone is fighting to "be born, live and work in the country".
"What is the use of fighting to develop new projects, job creators, if, in addition to this, we leave a company of 500 employees", complains André Martinez, president of the community of municipalities, referring to Sam, who escaped for a fur to judicial liquidation. The CGT trade unionist of this automotive subcontractor, David Gistau, also questions the state's industrial policy: "Renault, the company's main contractor, whose state is a shareholder, had made commitments for the figure of 74 million orders , but today we are only 54 million euros The trade unionist supported an industrial patriotism in which the state would really support the local industrialists.