© Pulsa Pictures_ORT SUD

A tale of iron and steel

The industrial history of the Minett region

When it comes to industrial development, the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg has mostly been shaped during the second half of the 19th century. At that moment in time, a couple of important conditions were met in the country and industrialization could take its course. The presence of railway infrastructure, the existence and mining of iron ore, the will to evolve on a technological level (using the Gilchrist–Thomas process for example), or joining the Zollverein were the starting stones of an evolution that is still ongoing today.

1870/1874 a new law declared the ground to be property of the Luxembourgish state, making the ownership of a concession necessary for everyone who desired to mine iron ore. Additionally, one third of the mined material had to be processed locally. This law was crucial for the creation of jobs and boosted the local economy.

The first city to evolve into an industrial hub was Esch-sur-Alzette, followed by Dudelange, Differdange and Rodange. Attracting workers of the steel-industry as new residence, those cities also developed on an infrastructural level. New living districts like Hiehl or Neiduerf in Esch-sur-Alzette and the Italy neighborhood in Dudelange grew rapidly. Esch-sur-Alzette is a perfect example of the growing population: while it only had 1.400 residents in 1842, their number exceeded 30.000 residents in 1930. The simultaneous evolution of population and infrastructure had one main goal: building strong communities and being attractive cities for people to move to.

Besides causing the rapid growth of residential areas, the local steel industry vastly shaped the overall image of the landscape. Steel plants and blast furnaces adorned the skylines, and natural areas progressively transformed into open pit mining areas with their characteristic terraced appearance.

© Pulsa Pictures_ORT Sud

While the two world wars slowed down this growth significantly, it never came to a halt. The peak of the steel industry was reached between the 1950s and 1970s. Each year the whole industry grew by around 6%, until it reached a record year in 1970 when 6.5 million tons of steel was produced in the Minett region. During this time, 29% - 43% of the country’s GDP originated in the steel industry, and about a quarter of its active population worked in this field. This made Luxembourg a competitive force, both on a European and on a global level, and the country was able to establish a strong economic position for itself.

The structural crisis of the steel industry in 1974 significantly changed everything. The major cities in the Minett region all had one common goal: not being reduced to dormitory towns for people working elsewhere but maintaining an attractive living standard for their residents. This development shaped the cities to an extent that can still be seen to this day.

In 1983 an important change took place. From that year on, industrial heritage could be listed as historic monuments and thus be preserved from a legal point of view. Effects of this change still shape the whole region’s appearance today and rather than destroying and replacing former industrial buildings and infrastructures, more and more of them are transformed and integrated into new urban development initiatives. This way, industrial heritage will always shape the Minett region in the future.

After this excursion through history, we invite you to jump right into your journey exploring the Minett region and the Minett Tour partner sites, helping to keep their memory alive and shape their future.