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Belval factory

Belval factory

The first European steel

The Belval blast furnaces in Esch-sur-Alzette are the last remnants of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg steel industry. In 1997, the steel factory was shut down for good, only to rise like a phoenix from its ashes a few years later.

The Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks from Essen, Germany, founded the ultra-modern steel factory in 1907 in a suburb of Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg. After the First World War, the steel factory came into the hands of the Société Métallurgique des Terres-Rouges and was renamed Usine de Belval.

European steel

In 1951, France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the predecessor of the European Union. The aim was to place coal and steel production under a joint authority and to prevent a new, fourth war between the sworn archenemies France and Germany.

On the eve of the opening of the single common market, Jean Monnet, President of the ECSC, arrived in Belval on April 30, 1953, to attend the casting of the first symbolic portion of 'European' steel.'


From 1965 onwards, a period of economic boom, Belval was given a complete makeover. The six pre-war blast furnaces made way for three new ones: blast furnaces A, B and C. By the time the last blast furnace C was ignited, the golden years were over. The construction of a fourth blast furnace was canceled and one blast furnace after another has been blown out since the late 1980s. The factory closed its doors for good in 1997.

Chinese move

The empty pedestal of blast furnace C symbolizes a turnaround in the European steel landscape: the shift of steel production towards Asia. In the summer of 1996, two hundred Chinese engineers dismantled the blast furnace and put it on a boat to the Chinese province of Yunnan. The concrete foundation is the only thing that reminds us of Belval's third blast furnace.

New city district

A century after its foundation, the old steel factory was repurposed. The new Belval city district was designed around the cowpers, ore bunkers and chimneys. Today, belval houses one of the three campuses of the Université du Luxembourg, two train stations, concert halls, a cinema, housing, and shops.

The eye-catchers remain the silhouettes of the two blast furnaces. Between April and October, you can climb blast furnace A to a height of forty meters and visit the engine room, among other things.

Although the two blast furnaces were coated with a thick layer of varnish, which makes them look very slick, as the Belgian newspaper Le Soir notes, at least they were not sold as scrap iron.

Among the new buildings, you will still find traces of the Cowper towers (to blow hot air into the ovens), the gas torch, the storage place for ores and coke, the management building, the bathing hall and the vast Halle des Soufflantes where gas was converted into electricity.

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