Before the discovery, around 1842, of 'minette' iron ore in the Land of the Red Rocks, the industrial activity was mainly centered on textile manufacturing, the manufacturing of gloves, crockery or paper, as well as on the brewing trade and tobacco manufacture.
The Grand Duchy's wealth was built on iron ore.
From the mid-19th century onwards, iron ore was an important source of the country's wealth. The Grand Duchy rapidly turned into a thriving industrial nation, so much so that it ranked 7th among the world's steel producing countries in 1927. In 1911, the steel-producing group ARBED (Aciéries Réunies de Burbach, Eich et Dudelange) was created. In 2002, the group became the global Arcelor group, which in turn became global leader ArcelorMittal in 2006.
The last remaining blast furnace closed in 1997
Today, nature is slowly reclaiming the former industrial sites. The old open-cast mines are slowly evolving into nature reserves. The last blast furnace in Grand Duchy ceased operation in 1997, marking a shift from cast-iron furnaces to electric furnaces for steel production.
A new look for the old industrial sites
A visit of the Lasauvage workers' district, the former industrial sites of Esch-Belval, the industrial parc at Fond-de-Gras and the National Mining Museum allows a better understanding of the Grand Duchy's history as a steel-producing country and the contribution steel has made to the country's wealth.
In the Luxembourg Ardennes, slate quarrying and copper mining used to be the main source of income for the local population.
Today, many of these disused industrial sites serve as venues for cultural events. For example, the former abattoirs in Esch-sur-Alzette and Grevenmacher have become the Kulturfabrik and the Kulturhuef respectively, flagship venues for cultural production and events. The disused water tower in Dudelange is home to the photographic collection entitled 'The Bitter Years, 1935-1941' by the American photographer of Luxembourg origin Edward Steichen, and the former blower hall on the steel-making site in Esch-Belval hosts cultural events and exhibitions.
This site has become a kind of model for the conversion of former steel-making sites. Where once steel ran in rivers, it is now grey matter that thrives, at the Belval Campus of the University of Luxembourg and at the research and innovation institutions that are now located there. The 'Belval Plaza' shopping centre and the 'Rockhal' concert hall add the finishing touches to the image of an emerging youthful neighbourhood.
Festival of Industrial Culture and Innovation
The Festival of Industrial Culture and Innovation, which was first held in 2014, takes place from May until July with the participation of no fewer than 25 cultural and economic stakeholders from the Land of the Red Rocks, under the auspices of the 'Bassin Minier' foundation. The programme is impressively diverse: films, drama, exhibitions, visits and walks, as well as lectures, round-table discussions and workshops. The overall theme of the festival remains the working class and industrial culture in the Grand Duchy, in its widest sense.