La Forge de Vulcain - Abandoned steelworks in France, February 2021

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B W T

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La Forge de Vulcain #05

by Broken Window Theory

This is an extinct world. These are the remains of a colossal steel mill where no furnace is blasting anymore, and no iron is melting. But it was not always like that. In the 1970s, this was a major steelworks in France. But first the economy failed, then politics. A price has been paid though, but solely by the only losers of this crisis: the workers - without a job anymore, deprived of their second home and poisoned by asbestos. Let us find out the full story!


La Forge de Vulcain #02

by Broken Window Theory

The quiet is eerie. We were only hearing the groaning of metal. This is unusual for a factory such as this, where man and machine worked day and night. But the machinery was turned off, and the workers were dismissed. What remains is a defunct world. This is a colossus made of iron. If you look at this, you could think it needs a whole steelwork itself just to cast a new one. Like a stranded whale, this giant dominates the area today. It is located in Gandrange, France, a municipality with only 3,000 citizens and long steel tradition. The people here called this imposing place their cathedral.


La Forge de Vulcain #01

by Broken Window Theory

The history of this steel mill has its origin in 1890 when the Germans built a factory here in Gandrange. Back then, the region was still part of the German Empire. The plant was fast-growing, and only both World Wars could disrupt this rapid development. But the building we are exploring in these photos was constructed later. Starting in the 1960s, they built this site to meet the strong demand for steel. The goal was to bundle the production of iron products that were scattered over several sites in the region at that point. 2.6 million tons of steel per year should be produced. To achieve this, they constructed a behemoth. The main building has a height of 100 meters and is 400 meters long. With all the additional structures, around 6,000 people found employment here at the end of the 60s. But the production targets could not be met. The rush for greatness killed the process instead of saving it. Costs increased with size, while the opposite was expected - a strategic mistake. Despite modernizations, the plant continued to be in the red. It was a victim of the 70s steel crisis. Bad times were to follow.


La Forge de Vulcain #26

by Broken Window Theory

For a decade now, this place has been frozen in time. All of the employees just vanished. In fact, a family has been torn apart. In 1999, the operating company sold the plant to the Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. He reduced the staff to a minimum, but even ten years later, the steelworks was still not in the black. When it became clear that Mittal intended to close the steel mill, workers went on massive strike. Even the French president himself tried to intervene and had a public appearance on-site that gained media attention. “An important industrial site in our country is at stake”, he said, and promised help. But shortly afterward, the steel mill was shut down, and the state failed to come to the rescue. Half of the remaining 1,000 workers were laid off, and the other half got new jobs in another plant nearby. Then-president Nicolas Sarkozy did something his compatriots did not expect from him: he remained silent.


La Forge de Vulcain #04

by Broken Window Theory

Despite all the eloquent promises of politicians, this plant was eventually closed. From a colossus of steel, now only a hollow carcass remains. Knocking down a place of this size is a long process. We were exploring this factory already quite a while ago. By now, this historical site is almost completely emptied out and torn down.


La Forge de Vulcain #18

by Broken Window Theory

In the picture above you can see the old lab of the steel mill. Here, they did tests with their products, analyses, and they also monitored. In short: This was their quality check. We also spotted an old pneumatic tube system over there.


La Forge de Vulcain #41

by Broken Window Theory

At a place this massive, you always discover something new. Even after hours of exploring, climbing up and down the whole time, and thousands of steps on the pedometer, we still have not seen everything. This rusty beast is the victim of a steel crisis as well as bad technological and economical decisions. The downfall was inevitable. During its 40 years of operation, 60 million tons of steel were produced. And now, sadly, lots of scrap metal gets added to that while it gets dismantled. More than the operating company, it was the staff that experienced a loss here. Alongside one another, they fought for their cathedral - but this was a hopeless war. The former workers of the Gandrange steel mill were left behind in bitterness but also disappointed, especially from their elected politicians. In a short period from now, this place will be gone.


La Forge de Vulcain #47

by Broken Window Theory

We are rather filmmakers than photographers, so we shot a documentary about this place you can now watch on YouTube if you want to see more of this fantastic site:

 

wolfism

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Nice shots, you captured some strong sunbeams which enliven your photos. Gandrange was a brilliant site to explore, one of the best places I've been lucky enough to visit. It lay empty for two or three years then demolition started although it moved slowly, meantime security were quite active and fairly cunning as well.
 

Hayman

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La Forge de Vulcain #05

by Broken Window Theory

This is an extinct world. These are the remains of a colossal steel mill where no furnace is blasting anymore, and no iron is melting. But it was not always like that. In the 1970s, this was a major steelworks in France. But first the economy failed, then politics. A price has been paid though, but solely by the only losers of this crisis: the workers - without a job anymore, deprived of their second home and poisoned by asbestos. Let us find out the full story!


La Forge de Vulcain #02

by Broken Window Theory

The quiet is eerie. We were only hearing the groaning of metal. This is unusual for a factory such as this, where man and machine worked day and night. But the machinery was turned off, and the workers were dismissed. What remains is a defunct world. This is a colossus made of iron. If you look at this, you could think it needs a whole steelwork itself just to cast a new one. Like a stranded whale, this giant dominates the area today. It is located in Gandrange, France, a municipality with only 3,000 citizens and long steel tradition. The people here called this imposing place their cathedral.


La Forge de Vulcain #01

by Broken Window Theory

The history of this steel mill has its origin in 1890 when the Germans built a factory here in Gandrange. Back then, the region was still part of the German Empire. The plant was fast-growing, and only both World Wars could disrupt this rapid development. But the building we are exploring in these photos was constructed later. Starting in the 1960s, they built this site to meet the strong demand for steel. The goal was to bundle the production of iron products that were scattered over several sites in the region at that point. 2.6 million tons of steel per year should be produced. To achieve this, they constructed a behemoth. The main building has a height of 100 meters and is 400 meters long. With all the additional structures, around 6,000 people found employment here at the end of the 60s. But the production targets could not be met. The rush for greatness killed the process instead of saving it. Costs increased with size, while the opposite was expected - a strategic mistake. Despite modernizations, the plant continued to be in the red. It was a victim of the 70s steel crisis. Bad times were to follow.


La Forge de Vulcain #26

by Broken Window Theory

For a decade now, this place has been frozen in time. All of the employees just vanished. In fact, a family has been torn apart. In 1999, the operating company sold the plant to the Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal. He reduced the staff to a minimum, but even ten years later, the steelworks was still not in the black. When it became clear that Mittal intended to close the steel mill, workers went on massive strike. Even the French president himself tried to intervene and had a public appearance on-site that gained media attention. “An important industrial site in our country is at stake”, he said, and promised help. But shortly afterward, the steel mill was shut down, and the state failed to come to the rescue. Half of the remaining 1,000 workers were laid off, and the other half got new jobs in another plant nearby. Then-president Nicolas Sarkozy did something his compatriots did not expect from him: he remained silent.


La Forge de Vulcain #04

by Broken Window Theory

Despite all the eloquent promises of politicians, this plant was eventually closed. From a colossus of steel, now only a hollow carcass remains. Knocking down a place of this size is a long process. We were exploring this factory already quite a while ago. By now, this historical site is almost completely emptied out and torn down.


La Forge de Vulcain #18

by Broken Window Theory

In the picture above you can see the old lab of the steel mill. Here, they did tests with their products, analyses, and they also monitored. In short: This was their quality check. We also spotted an old pneumatic tube system over there.


La Forge de Vulcain #41

by Broken Window Theory

At a place this massive, you always discover something new. Even after hours of exploring, climbing up and down the whole time, and thousands of steps on the pedometer, we still have not seen everything. This rusty beast is the victim of a steel crisis as well as bad technological and economical decisions. The downfall was inevitable. During its 40 years of operation, 60 million tons of steel were produced. And now, sadly, lots of scrap metal gets added to that while it gets dismantled. More than the operating company, it was the staff that experienced a loss here. Alongside one another, they fought for their cathedral - but this was a hopeless war. The former workers of the Gandrange steel mill were left behind in bitterness but also disappointed, especially from their elected politicians. In a short period from now, this place will be gone.


La Forge de Vulcain #47

by Broken Window Theory

We are rather filmmakers than photographers, so we shot a documentary about this place you can now watch on YouTube if you want to see more of this fantastic site:

A really well made documentary on the steel works and its history. It should go into a French national archive. Time and again, large structures - caves, railway stations, factories - get called cathedrals. The word cropped up several times in this video. If only actual cathedrals were as productive. Perhaps plants such as this one became loss-making when patriotism was first considered a dirty word, and price not quality was the byword. Steel has been replaced by other materials for many jobs, but it still has its place in the world. Unfortunately that world includes countries such as China, which will always undercut Europe when it comes to price. And the Chinese have no quibbles about patriotism.
 

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