The hulking integrated steel mills that ring the south shore of Lake Michigan are in some ways relics of a different era.
The newest integrated mill, the last one to ever have been built in the United States, is celebrating its 50th anniversary of steelmaking.
Primary steelmaking operations started 50 years ago at the D blast furnace and steelmaking BOF shop at the former Bethlehem Steel mill in Burns Harbor, which is now known as ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor.
ArcelorMittal, whose predecessor Mittal Steel bought the Burns Harbor mill from International Steel Group in 2005, commemorated the anniversary recently by opening a 50-year-old time capsule that contained iron samples, manuals, booklets, employee letters, management biographies and other sundries.
“Fifty years ago, the first ironmakers here recognized the significance of the start of the integrated operations and took the initiative to place some items inside this time capsule,” Steve Horvath, division manager of iron-producing at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, said in a news release. “Through the intervening years, hundreds of employees have worked to make Burns Harbor iron-producing successful, and we are here to recognize their efforts, along with the efforts of present-day employees who have carried on that legacy.”
The mill, on a 2,000-acre tract north of U.S. 12, celebrated its grand opening in 1965 with Indiana's governor, 200 members of the national press, a special 19-car train bringing dignitaries from Chicago, and a feast of steak and lobster, according to the Northwest Indiana Steel Heritage Museum.
But the construction of an industrial operation so large takes time, and the first blast furnace did not start producing iron ore there until 1969.
Blast furnace C opened at the steel mill three years later. The steel mill in Porter County has since produced 200 million tons of iron ore, which becomes steel.
The steel mill at one point generated 90% of the tax revenue for the town of Burns Harbor, and was the most profitable mill for the now-defunct Pennsylvania-based Bethlehem Steel, which helped build the Merchandise Mart, the Golden Gate Bridge, the George Washington Bridge and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
Bethlehem Steel, which had been the second-largest steelmaker in the United States, filed for bankruptcy protection during the import crisis of 2001 and went out of business two years later. But its steel mill in Burns Harbor soldiers on.
ArcelorMittal also marked the occasion by honoring the more than 70 steelworkers who have put in more than 50 years of service. They each got a mounted aerial photograph of the Burns Harbor mill.
“I’d like to congratulate everyone here for the longevity of your career,” ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor Vice President and General Manager John Mengel said. “What a phenomenal achievement to be working at the same place for 50 years. Thank you for your service and for your many contributions to the Burns Harbor facility.”
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