Contemporary history of Luxembourg

Between Extinction in Luxembourg and Resurrection in China. The History of the Three Belval Blast Furnaces after the Transformation of the Steel Site in the 1990s

In 1997, the Luxembourgish steel company ARBED extinguished the last of its three traditional blast furnaces built between 1965 and 1979 at its production site in Belval, now solely focusing on recycling scrap metal. This marked a milestone in the restructuring of the Luxembourgish steel industry which experienced a far-reaching transformation from mass steel producer and largest employer of the country to a local producer of highly specialized products with a small number of skilled workers beginning in the mid-1970s. This paper traces the history of the three Belval blast furnaces that, despite the conversion of the steel site, managed to prevail to this day. While two of the blast furnaces "Hochofen A" and "Hochofen B" now shape the skyline of the redeveloped urban space and national University campus as industrial monuments, Hochofen C was bought by the Kunming Iron and Steel company in 1996, dismantled and shipped to the Chinese Yunnan province where it remained operational until 2021. Creating three object biographies, this paper compares different approaches to dealing with obsolete industrial artefacts. It analyses (1) the process of de-industrialisation of the Luxembourgish steel industry through which the blast furnaces lost their significance, (2) the classification as cultural heritage and integration into a new urban space, characterized by company, political and public debates and (3) the transaction with China as well as the reception and utilization of HO C at the destination. By examining company records, international reports and media sources, different transnational narratives and contexts of industrial development across time and space are revealed and it is argued that, the blast furnaces have served as symbols of industrialisation, de-industrialisation and re-industrialisation in both Luxembourg and China.

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