Zaporizhstal Turns 90: Preserving the past, forging the future

There is no future without a past, which becomes your history. It is, however, important to understand the difference between when the past is a heavy burden that prevents you from moving on, and when it is the events that motivate you to develop, challenges that teach you and make you stronger, people who inspire you to make new discoveries.

Over the 90 years of its existence, Zaporizhstal has had many such stories – revolutionary, tragic, record-breaking, motivating, challenging, and ground-breaking. Some of them were erased from the chronicles by censors. Others are inscribed in golden letters in the book of fate and do not require a plausibility check.

And then there are those memories that are etched forever in our steel DNA as they resonate with us today. The 90-year history of Zaporizhstal lives on today in the hard-working hands of a blast furnace operator, in the sincere smile of a steelmaker, in the conversation of two crane operators who are not in a hurry to go home, in our hardened personality and will of steel that keep this crazy world going. Take a closer look and you will see that despite the years between us, we, Zaporizhstal’s employees, are united. And we are united by common values that have not lost their importance and significance over the years: responsibility for common goals, mutual assistance, responsiveness, generational continuity, and passion for the hottest profession and our life’s work.

On the occasion of the Steel Works’ anniversary, we will give you a glimpse into Zaporizhstal’s history, which is reflected in our present reinterpreted through the lens of the past.

The heart of Zaporizhstal

The history of the steel works dates back to the blast furnace shop and owes its existence to the incredibly brave and dedicated people who worked almost at the mouth of the volcano – the blast furnace operators. Compared to their predecessors, modern blast furnace operators look like astronauts, clad in their armour and working near modern devices.

But the eyes of two different generations are filled with the same passion and pride in their profession forged in the fires of the steel works. Zaporizhstal’s workers will not let you down, they continue to hold the line – today, as they have been doing for 90 years in a row.

It is nice to flip through the pages of history, unravelling the story of production, construction, and scaling-up. Having immediately set the bar high as a record-breaking plant, Zaporizhstal is adamant not to lose it.

The entire history of the plant is full of outstanding achievements that were ahead of their time, such as the pre-assembly of a blast furnace. This technology was first recreated in the USSR in 1948 at blast furnace No. 4 at Zaporizhstal. In 2017, the use of pre-assembly combined with the creation of an intelligent three-dimensional model of blast furnace No. 3 became a phenomenon in Ukraine’s industrial construction. While projects of this scale usually took a year and a half to two years to complete in Ukraine, Zaporizhstal completed the reconstruction of the furnace in a record eight months.

This is what the construction of the first blast furnace looked like in the 1930s, compared to the same BF No. 3 in 2016. If only they had a state-of-the-art MAMMOET crane to assist them. It helped us a lot back then: the crane was in operation for 5 months during the large-scale reconstruction of the furnace, during which time it was used to mount about 7,000 tonnes of steel structures.

Time for a rethink

History cannot be rewritten, but it can and should be rethought. After all, the ghost of the Soviet legacy should not haunt our present and shape our identity. We have been fighting for this for all 32 years of our independence, and the fight is still on. Both at the frontline and at the industrial site, we are creating something that is ours, Ukrainian.

In the Soviet era, the smoke rising from the plant was a good sign, because the running plant meant that the city was alive. Sometimes such stories can be heard from our esteemed veterans.  Rethinking the environmental impact has taught us to value other performance indicators. Since 2012, more than UAH 16 billion has been invested in Zaporizhstal’s environmental modernisation.

The largest projects implemented include the environmental reconstruction of the sinter plant, modernisation of blast furnaces with the installation of modern casthouse fume extraction systems and stockhouse dedusting systems, commissioning of an industrial and industrial stormwater recycling plant and other. The photo shows our modern sinter plant. We are sure that the first Zaporizhstal workers would be proud of us.

The plant takes special pride in its sulphuric acid pickling line BTA-4, the transformation of which has gone down in history. Built in 2014, it completely stopped the discharge of industrial water into the Dnipro River and sulphuric acid vapours from the cold rolling mill.  Fully automated and environmentally friendly, it is our pride and motivation for change.

Heroes of their time

The photo, dated 30 June 1947, shows Zaporizhstal’s first post-war hot metal. Powerful and hot, it oozes from the furnace that was once stopped by the war.
History repeated itself: another halt happened in March 2022 because of the attack of enemy troops. The plant then idled for 33 days… In May, iron production was resumed, giving an impetus to the entire steel works. We took a snapshot of that first hot metal tapped after the blast furnace shutdown for history, because it was more important and long-awaited than ever.

The resumption of Zaporizhstal’s operations during the full-scale war became possible thanks to modern soldiers, heroes who defended our city and did not let the enemy pass. The fight goes on. More than 1,050 of our colleagues have joined the Ukrainian Defence Forces, and every tenth employee of Zaporizhstal has left their job to defend the country. The people of peaceful labour who took up arms to defend what is theirs.

The black-and-white photo depicts the heroic steel workers who liberated Ukraine from the Nazis more than 70 years ago, and next to them is our contemporary, Zaporizhstal’s employee with the call sign “Gecko”, who has changed his work wear for a pixelated uniform and is following a warrior’s path now. The hard and thorny path to Victory.

Rinat Akhmetov’s Steel Front defence initiative provides reliable support to the Ukrainian army. As of today, it has spent more than UAH 6 billion on Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs.

We will always remember the heroic deeds of 44 employees who sacrificed their lives to bring us one more step closer to a peaceful sky above our heads. Those who became the past so that we could be the future. Eternal glory to the heroes!

Another step towards rethinking the mistakes of the past is gender equality, which is achieved through equal working conditions and mutual respect between male and female employees. Metallurgy, once considered the preserve of mean, also has a woman’s face. After all, the plant has 2,070 female employees whose work is absolutely indispensable. Gentle and strong are Zaporizhstal’s women.

A big family

We respectfully carry on the traditions of responsible work established by the preceding generations of steel workers. We have learned from their experience and respect for work at the steelworks. Work at Zaporizhstal has always been something to be proud of!

The voice of a rolling mill operator depicted in a 1950s photo still lives on in this operator room. Years later, his contemporary repeats the same words: “Feed the strip. Pause. Go.” And the steel flows.

Continuity is not archaism at all, but a part of our tradition and culture, it is a part of us. Zaporizhstal’s workers generously pass on their knowledge to young people and train a new generation of steelmakers. Every fourth employee at the steelworks is under the age of 35.

The way of steel has no end. But it starts in the steel kitchen of Zaporizhstal. It is cooked by 10,000 true professionals in this field. A 90-year-old recipe, with innovations and improvements to the consumer’s taste.

The plant confirms its compliance with international quality and environmental standards every year. We vouch for quality with our name!

Despite the war, the key markets for Zaporizhstal’s products remain the markets of the European Union countries bordering Ukraine and the United States of America. The main products are flat rolled products such as hot-rolled coil and sheet, cold-rolled sheet, coil of carbon and low-alloy steels, merchant slabs, steel strip, and black tin steel.

The creators of steel history remain unchanged – sinter machine operators, blast furnace operators, steelmakers, rolling mill operators, power and utility engineers, and railway workers. No matter what production units they work at, the sparkle in their eyes gives them away as Zaporizhstal’s employees. Strong, brave, unbreakable, like our steel hardened with flame. And this flame will never die.

The city of steel people

At all times, Zaporizhstal has been not just a company, but a steel pillar of the city. We live and work in sync with our Zaporizhzhia, supporting, helping and developing it.

We restored the buildings of Sotsmisto (a neighbourhood in Zaporizhzhia) destroyed by the Second World War together with residents, bringing life and family comfort back to them. It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century we are going through the ordeal of war again. In these moments of struggle, Zaporizhstal is always there.

From the first days of the full-scale invasion, Zaporizhstal has been actively helping the city to eliminate the consequences of enemy shelling, providing equipment and specialists to help clear the rubble. In 2023, Metinvest Group and Zaporizhstal joined the project to restore the historic building at 151 Sobornyi Avenue, which was built in 1955 by order of the plant and partially destroyed by an enemy missile strike in October 2022. Together we will rebuild!

Good traditions live on: they are being transformed in line with modern times. For example, holding eco-activities in the city. As part of the environmental initiative “Let’s Save the Dnipro Together!”, which Zaporizhstal revived in 2012, about 1,900 trees were planted, over 185 tonnes of litter were collected, about 190,000 fish were released into the Dnipro, and 8,600 spawning areas were arranged. Over this period, about 10,000 people have taken part in the campaign.

Sports traditions have also been preserved, although they are currently on hold due to the war. Currently, we are focused on Ukraine’s victory for all of us, after which we will definitely return to sports grounds and stadiums.  Ukrainians are a nation of winners.

Looking through old photos, it becomes clear: only by rethinking our own history anew can we remain both timely and timeless.

The best of the past has become a source of inspiration for Zaporizhstal and a compass, not a map. So, we continue our own path of peaceful work and development. Ukrainian Zaporizhstal is 90 years old and counting.