Luxembourg owes its wealth to the presence of a powerful steel industry which had its golden years in the mid-20th century. However, following the steel crisis of the 1970s, the iron and steel industry was no longer the driving force of the Luxembourg economy.
Presently, the headquarters of several world leaders are located in the Grand Duchy: ArcelorMittal, leader in the world-wide steel production; Aperam, world leader in the stainless steel production; and Paul Wurth, one of the world leaders in the design and implementation of mechanical equipment and systems and methods for blast furnaces.
The early days of industry in Luxembourg, dating back to the middle of the 19th century, were dominated by steel production. Luxembourg owes its wealth largely to the discovery of iron ore in the south at the end of the 19th century, which gave rise to a powerful steel industry. This success cannot be dissociated from ARBED.
For a long time, the iron and steel industry was the locomotive of Luxembourg's economy, until the beginning of the steel crisis in the 1970s. The following figures speak for themselves:
- in 1960, the iron and steel industry contributed to 31% of the Luxembourg GDP;
- in 1974, the final year of the 'thirty glorious years' (1945-1975), the steelworks and iron ore mines employed around 25,000 people equating to 16% of the total workforce of the Luxembourg economy.
However, with the oil shock of 1973 and the ensuing crisis of the European steel industry, the predominance of this pillar of the Luxembourg economy was deeply challenged. The iron and steel industry could only survive through a profound state-led reorganisation, particularly through the establishment of investment aid. The last blast furnace in Luxembourg was shut down in 1997, marking a shift from the cast-iron furnace the to electric furnace steel production.
In 2002, ARBED (Aciéries réunies de Burbach, Eich, Dudelange, United Steelworks of Burbach, Eich, Dudelange), the 'giant' Luxembourg steel producer, merged with two other steel companies, Usinor and Aceralia, to become Arcelor, the world leader in steel production. Arcelor merged with Mittal Steel in 2006, creating the ArcelorMittal group, the world's number one steel producer. Its headquarters are in Luxembourg. Today, ArcelorMittal has an industrial presence in over 20 countries on four continents. In Luxembourg, the company operates 11 manufacturing sites. Since early 2011, the stainless steel division of ArcelorMittal has been operating as an independent company under the name of Aperam. The company is a global leader in stainless steel and has its headquarters in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg is also the headquarters of Paul Wurth, one of the world leaders in the design and implementation of mechanical equipment and systems and methods for blast furnaces.