Longwy was shaped by the steel industry more radically than any other city in Europe.
Now its last production site of this era is disappearing.
Until the early 1960s, Hauts Fourneaux et Forges de Saulnes et Gorcy was a pure pig iron producer with two production sites in Saulnes and in Hussigny-Godbrange, 5 km away.
The company operated 4 blast furnaces and 3 electric arc furnaces for the production of ferrous alloys.
Due to growing overcapacities on the European pig iron market, the management decided at that time to build a fully continuous wire rod mill in neighbouring Herserange to process part of its iron production there.
In the lack of their own facilities, steel production was to take place in the Thomas steelworks of Lorraine-Escaut in Senelle, 4 km south.
For this purpose, a blast furnace was converted in Saulnes to produce Thomas pig iron and a liquid transport system was set up. The blast furnaces in Hussigny were shut down in 1964.
The steel produced in Senelle from the Saulnes iron was rolled into billets and then finished in Herserange. In return, Lorraine-Escaut was allowed to use half the capacity (30.000 t/m) of the new rolling mill itself.
In June 1964, the first billet was rolled into wire rod in the new plant.
The rolling mill had 7 roughing, 10 intermediate and 16 finishing stands.
In 1966, Usinor took over Soc. des Forges de Saulnes et Gorcy and merged it with its ironworks in Uckange to form Hauts Fourneaux Réunis de Saulnes et Uckange.
Since Lorraine-Escaut was also taken over by Usinor in the same year, the new wire mill could now be attached to the plant in Senelle.
The Saulnes blast furnaces were shut down for good in 1968 and iron production was shifted to Uckange. Only one electric furnace was still in operation until 1991.
The wire mill was taken over in 1984 by Unimetal, now the long products division of Usinor-Sacilor, and shut down in December 1998.
Cockerill’s construction of a new melt shop in Réhon, France in 1978 was the last major investment into the dying steel basin of Longwy.
The two O.B.M. converters (Oxygen Bodenblasen Maxhütte) were installed in the relocated halls of the former Thomas steelworks in Ougree, Belgium, closed down in 1975.
Between June and October 1979 Cockerill now operated a real converter zoo in Réhon.
Two new 80 t O.B.M converters.
Two old 26 t former Thomas converters which were converted to O.B.M. in 1973.
Three 23 t Thomas converters from 1953
and a 36 t O.L.P. (Oxygen Lance Poudre) converter from 1963.
There was also an electric steel plant.
Since the LD process, which was successfully used worldwide, could not be applied due to the high-phosphor domestic ores, numerous new steel production processes were introduced in Lorraine.
None of them was very sustainable.
The Thomas converters were shut down in October 1979, the old O.B.M. converters and the O.L.P. steelworks one year later.
On 30.7.1987, after only 8 years of operation, the new O.B.M. steel plant, now owned by USINOR, was shut down too. In 1980 a third converter had been added.
Aciéries de Longwy, 1930.
Already about a year old but still highly recommended:
“L’industrie du fer dans le bassin de Longwy des origines à nos jours”
588 pages crammed with information (in French) and hundreds of photos about Longwy’s legendary steel mills (Longwy, Senelle, La Chiers and Rehon).
60,00 EUR. ISBN/GTIN978-2-916782-62-1, Edition Fensch Vallee.
In the 1960ies the small town of Longwy, France (pop. 60000) still housed more than 20 blast furnaces. A unique density.
The mills were running on local iron ores of a rather poor quality that became uneconomical in the 1970ies with high quality iron ore shipped into Europe from overseas.
35 years ago, after the announcment of La Chiers’ closure, Longwy’s steel workers started their long and exceptional violent struggle to keep their jobs.
Since the closure of Arcelor’s wire rolling mill in 1998 there is no more steel industry in town.
Jean-Marie Ottelé site: www.industrie.lu is a unique source of information about the Terre Rouge (Red Earth) steel industry.
3: Hauts Fourneaux De La Chiers
4: Aciéries de Longwy
5: Hauts-Fourneaux Réunis de Saulnes et Uckange
Hauts Fourneaux De La Chiers, 1950ies