Poudreries Réunies de Belgique
THE ABANDONED FACTORY IN BELGIUM
‘PRB’, short for ‘Poudreries Réunies de Belgique SA’ was one of Belgium’s oldest and largest manufacturers of munitions. Its mining branch was built in Matagne La Grande in 1886. The company went bankrupt in 1993.
The company was established by Jan-Frans Cooppal from Wetteren in 1778. His gunpowder factory was named ‘Koninklijke Buskruitfabriek Cooppal’. Following a catastrophic explosion in 1880, he decided to build a new plant in Kaulille. In 1881 the company changed its name to ‘NV Cooppal en Co’, ten years later ‘Poudrerie Réunies de Casteau’ was formed.
As a result of a merge with other factories, the company was renamed ‘Poudreries Réunies de Belgique’ in 1919. Years later production was scattered over six locations, namely in Clermont, Vivegnis, Mechelen, Kaulille, Balen and this one in Matagne La Grande. The latter was established in 1886 and employed up to 400 people. Eventually by its 200th anniversary in 1979 PRB had 73 factories throughout the world, with the headquarters in Brussels.
The Matagne plant was specialized in explosives for the mining industry. The site consists of many buildings and bunkers. Besides some laboratories there were many explosion-proof rooms and buildings where the products were tested.
Eventually PRB went bankrupt in 1993 after being demilitarized in 1990. As a result parts of the company were sold to different buyers. The Matagne site was sold to Mecar SA with the explosive materials being recovered by the French company SNPE. Consequently the site was returned to civilian use and the forest were declared of “great biological interest“. I visited ‘Poudreries Réunies de Belgique’ in 2008 and 2016. Also read my report on this Dutch ammunition factory.