Socialist Experiments

Weirton Steel Hard Hat
In the heartlands of the USA, of all places, a social (some spoke of a socialist) experiment in the steel industry took place in 1984.
The workers of the Weirton steelworks in West Virginia took over 100 % of their mill from the National Steel Comp. .
It now was the only integrated steel mill in the western hemisphere that was employee owned.
The Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP) was ment to save 8000 jobs in Weirton.
Although the mill initially became profitable again, the plan failed in the end.
In 2003 Weirton Steel went bankrupt and was sold to ISG for only $237 million in 2004.
With the exception of one cold rolling mill, owned by ArcelorMittal, the plant has been shut down and is currently being demolished.
I visited the site in 2004 and was allowed to take this hard hat with me as a reminder of the good old socialist times.
Weirton Steel

And the Wolf Finally Came

Almost 50 years ago, on 31 March 1970, a remarkable era ended largely unnoticed by the public.
After 69 years of unchallenged leadership as the world’s largest steel company, U.S. Steel out of Pittsburgh had been ousted from this position by the newly founded Nippon Steel Corp. of Japan.
Just two years later, the Soviet Union announced that in 1971 it had produced more steel than the U.S., the world’s largest producer at that time.
In the 1950s, the American steel industry still employed 700,000 of the best paid workers worldwide. Almost 90% of these jobs are lost today.
The global steel crisis that began in 1975 hit the U.S. harder than any other industrialized nation. Entire regions such as the Mahoning and the Monongahela Valleys were economically devastated.
The reasons for this decline, which is unique especially in its speed, were discussed by John P. Hoerr already in 1988 in his book “And the Wolf Finally Came”.
The best book on this subject I know.
In 1965, when the American empire of steel still seemed to be in order, there were 237 blast furnaces at 72 locations. A soon to be started series will introduce all of them.

ESW in Eschweiler closed down.

Yesterday the last seamless tubes were rolled at ESW in Eschweiler. This marks the end of the history of the former EBV-Hüttenbetriebe, the now largely forgotten steel subsidiary of Eschweiler Bergwerksverein.

Piercing stand

The plant in Eschweiler, Germany was founded in 1914 by the Eschweiler-Ratinger Maschinenbauaktiengesellschaft (ERMAG). In 1917 an open hearth shop was added to ensure the steel supply.
In 1924 the plant was taken over by the Eschweiler Bergwerksverein, a mining company mostly owned by ARBED from Luxemburg.
Pig iron was now supplied by the nearby EBV blast furnaces (Concordiahütte). In 1957 a new 30 t electric arc melt shop was built on ground of the now dismantled blast furnace site which had been closed down in 1941.
Two pilger rolling mills were commissioned in 1953 and 1961.
Since, due to the unfavourable transport situation, it did not make sense to produce mass-produced steels in competition with the Ruhr area, EBV-Hüttenbetriebe now specialised in the production of high-quality steels.
In 1965 a continuous caster and a second EAF where added. A new innovative planetary tube rolling mill (PSW) gradually replaced the outdated pilger rolling mills in 1976.
In 1984 the site was sold to the Maxhütte steel company from Bavaria.The EAF melt shop was closed in 1986 and one year later the Maxhütte went bancrupt. In order to save the new tube rolling mill the former plant manager, among others, took the mill over in 1987.

ESW-Röhrenwerke produced seamless steel tubes for the oil and gas industry,  boilers and engineering.
The last owner, Danieli from Italy, took over in 2016.
Further images.

Aviles Coking Plant shut down.


Already on 30 September 2019, ArcelorMittal shut down the last two (3&4) of eight batteries  at it’s Aviles coking plant in Spain.
The coking plant had been built from 1951 onwards as part of an economic programme; Franco’s dream of an industrialized Spain.
With it’s closure, the last major unit of the once state-owned steel group ENSIDESA will disappear.
The plant had 8 batteries of 30 ovens each and was planned and built by Didier-KOGAG-Hinselmann, an engineering company from Essen. It supplied coke to the finally four blast furnaces in Aviles (which have since been demolished).
In 1973, the state-owned ENSIDESA took over the neighbouring private steelworks UNINSA in Gijon. The coking plant there is also currently shut down, so that the last active blast furnace (furnace A) in Spain has to be supplied with imported coke. It is therefore questionable whether and when blast furnace B will be restarted.

Back at La Louviere

Roughing Stand

Back at the old Gustave Boël site in La Louviere, Belgium after 13 years.
A lot has changed, no more steel making, no more continuous casting, no more wire rolling.
NLMK from Russia took over in 2011 and still operates the 72″ hot strip mill  which was put into operation in November 1965.

Finishing stands

Together with the LD steelworks, it was part of a major investment in anticipation of the extension of the Brüssel-Charleroi Canal for 1350 t vessels.
The roughing stand was supplied by Maschinenfabrik Sack in Düsseldorf – the finishing line was a cooperation between Siemag from Hilchenbach and the United Engineering and Foundry Company from Pittsburgh.
The roughing stand was equipped with two 5000 kW DC engines and each finishing stand was driven by a 4500 kW DC motor.
Further images on my website.