Loos-en-Gohelle was a scene of conflict in a succession of wars between the 13th and 17th centuries, and of epic-scale slaughter during the so-called First Battle of Loos in 1915. The Loos Memorial commemorates 20,000 British soldiers killed between 1915 and 1918, and there are several other military cemeteries in the vicinity. The town, 5 km north-west of Lens, was totally destroyed during the First World War, but recovered as a centre of coal-mining, and now has a population of about 7,000. The mines closed in the 1980s but the landscape is rich in monuments of mining history.
La Chaine des Terrils is an organisation founded in 1986 which takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the mining landscape, with the objective of building upon the past, and using the monuments of past industry as opportunities for future development not as problems to be obliterated. It is based in the buildings of the 11/19 colliery which closed in 1986, amongst which is a steel head frame. The organisation has proved successful in securing the protection and conservation of many of the tips in Nord-Pas-de-Calais.
Loos-en-Gohelle is chiefly notable for its five towering spoil tips, les Terrils 11/19, two of them 146 m high, which are reputedly the highest in Europe. Many remains of equipment once used in mining protrude from the red shale, twisted rails, discarded lengths of rusting steel rope, the corroded sheet metal of wagons. The tips support a range of plant life, including fruit trees that have grown from apple and pear cores and fig seeds discarded by distant generations of miners. Many species of birds find food on the tips, and the pools in the valleys have attracted various reptiles. Parts of the tips are used for sport, for mountain biking, orienteering, paragliding, and, in season, for skiing and luge.
La Chaine des Terrils organisations expeditions across the tips to study ecology and mining heritage, and coach tours of the mining landscape across a wider area are operated from the tourist office in Lens.