• Henrik Haupt

Heavy Metal: Abandoned steelworks in Belgium

Updated: 5 days ago

High security

Heavy Metal, as this place has been called, is wrapped in eight km barbed wire fences in three layers. That's what keeps people out of a gigantic area where this fascinating abandoned steelworks is located.

In addition to the first rather extensive fencing, there is even more barbed wire and fences around the individual buildings.

Guards patrol by car in the area approx. Every half hour, and as the icing on the cake, there is, of course, a little video surveillance and various alarms .........

Luckily for me, all this was to take care of a couple of the other buildings on the plot that have just been sold.

Exterior shot of abandoned steelworks in Belgium
A few mobile pictures of the steelworks from the outside.
Barbed wire fence around abandoned steelworks in Belgium

All this taken into account, it makes really good sense that the two times I have previously tried to get in, I have unfortunately failed and had to drive again, without getting to see this place. But this time, I had decided that it was not an option to go home without visiting it. To make sure my new plan was going to hold water, I took the long walk the night before. It was really well spent because plan A did not work, plan B did not work either, but plan C turned out to be the correct way. There I found everything open and almost not a single obstacle.

So I walked around there in the dark, trying to get a feel for the size of this place. But it was impossible. I could only sense that it was not very sensible to walk around in the dark, with the danger of splashing in the many things that were floating.

So I hurried back to the car, so I could get something to eat and a good night's sleep so I could be ready for the next day's exploration.

BOF converters on abandoned steelworks in Belgium
Rust and dirt on abandoned Heavy Metal in Belgium
Large abandoned halls in abandoned Heavy Metal factory in Belgium
Abandoned crane in steelworks in Belgium
Large smelters on abandoned steelworks in Belgium

The steel industry in Belgium

The steelworks had to turn the key for the last time sometime in 2012. It was not unique to this area in Belgium because here metal factories closed on a streak. Before the closures, however, many different initiatives, mergers and acquisitions had been tried, which had not given the companies anything but a little extra time.

Unfortunately, with less demand and cheaper production in other countries, it was no longer profitable to operate these steel mills in Belgium.

The factory here was, among other things, supplied with liquid metal from a blast furnace located 20 km from here. The metal was transported by train in special torpedo cars. This blast furnace I visited on the same trip, and you can read about here: HFB

However, I thought one of the pictures should be included, which shows one of the torpedo train wagons.

Abandoned torpedo wagon to transport the molten raw steel

The manufacture of steel

The process used here at the factory is called the Basic Oxygen Process, where scrap metal is mixed with liquid crude iron in a crucible. The mixture is then supplemented with the mineral dolomite and lime, and Oxygen is blown directly into the mix through a lance.

When Oxygen is blown in, the temperature rises to around 1600 degrees, where impurities are burned away.

After approx. 25 minutes, the liquid steel is poured into a new vessel, and slag is poured into other containers.

The slag is driven away, and the pure liquid steel is lifted up in the tub and poured down through a mould into some rollers, which make steel bars through what is called continuous casting.

Continuous casters on abandoned steelworks in Belgium
Morning sunshine on abandoned continuous caster
continuous caster on abandoned Heavy Metal factory in Belgium

The steel rods are transported to one of the other buildings, where they are further rolled into large steel rolls up to 2 meters wide, which is the finished product that has come out of the factory here. Unfortunately, the last part of the process, I could not photograph because this building is now sold.

It was great to follow the steel manufacturing process in these giant halls, for everything is just in size XXL.

To give an idea of how big the building is, so if you walk all the way around the building, then you have walked 1.5 km. However, this is not the largest on the plot, for the building where the roller measures 2.5 km all the way around.

Large smelters on abandoned steel factory in Belgium
Slag remover on abandoned steelworks in Belgium
Smelters on abandoned Heavy Metal steelworks in Belgium
Abandoned steelworks in Belgium

It is not so strange that when I finished photographing, I was getting pretty tired again.

But the trip went on to the next steel plant because I was not entirely done with the steel industry yet.

When I'm on these trips, I like to get something out of time, so it often turns into very little sleep.

The experiences always give me a little more energy, and usually, it is only when I am home again that I can feel how hard the trip has been.

Scrap metal crane in abandoned steelworks in Belgium
Rust and dirt on abandoned Heavy Metal
Rusty staircases on abandoned steel factory

To keep us on the same track, an essential part of steel production is coal.

I have visited several abandoned coal mines in Germany, as the last mines have recently been closed.

It has given me a lot of remarkable experiences, but the most significant experience, and the biggest mine I have visited, is Zeche DB which got me over my 10,000 steps before lunch.

Here it was like walking in a giant maze because of the endless conveyor belts and footbridges I had to go through to find the right way in.

I want to say thank you to Viktor Mácha for helping me understand the steel manufacturing process.

I can recommend you to look at his website if you want to see beautiful pictures of steelworks while they are still in use. www.viktormacha.com

You can see a short video from this place