In interwar Belgium, coal mining suffered a double, socioeconomic and environmental, crisis. The rise in coal production went along with increased mining damage. The cost of the damage became so high that mining companies were unable to bear it. In 1934, a disaster in the town of Gosselies revealed the weakness of the Belgian mining industry. The town was disfigured by the effects of surface subsidence caused by the Grand Conty and Spinois mining company. Unable to make compensation to victimised surface owners, the company declared itself bankrupt. The Belgian state was then faced with an unprecedented environmental crisis threatening to jeopardise the future of coal extraction in the country. The disaster was an opportunity to reconsider the mineral ownership regime and ensure better compensation for surface owners by placing the regulation of mining damage under administrative oversight.