The PROFUSA coke battery in Barakaldo (Biscay), the last one in the Basque iron and Steel industry, is about to be demolished

La batería de hornos de coque de PROFUSA en plena actividad en 2009. Foto © Santiago Yaniz Aramendia.

La batería de hornos de coque de PROFUSA en plena actividad en 2009. Foto © Santiago Yaniz Aramendia.

Since the demolition of the Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (AHV) coke batteries in 1995, the PROFUSA coke battery was the last one in use in the Basque Country until the Company shut down a few months ago. PROFUSA (formerly Sociedad Anónima Echevarría) had taken over the Puerto Rico factory that Francisco Chalbaud founded in 1862 in the Barakaldo neighbourhood of Santa Agueda, one of the pioneering factories of the iron and steel industry in Bizkaia and the Basque Country.

The Basque Association for the Conservation of the Industrial and Public Works Heritage (Asociación Vasca de Patrimonio Industrial y Obra Pública, AVPIOP-IOHLEE) has been long asking the Department for Education, Language and Culture of the Basque Government to take protective measures for its conservation, conscious of its historic value as a characteristic element of the process used in the manufacture of iron and steel in Bizkaia for over a century.

Almost a year ago, on the 5th of March 2015, the Basque Language and Culture Comission of the Provincial Government of Bizkaia approved a non-binding law proposition directed to the Basque Government where the Provincial Government of Bizkaia requested the Basque Government to expedite the initiation and processing of requests made by the Basque Association for the Conservation of the Industrial and Public Works Heritage (as well as other private and public entities) for elements of the iron and steel industry to be declared Cultural Heritage and be protected as such.

The integrated iron and steel industry allows pig-iron (first fusion iron) to be produced in the blast furnace from the raw materials, iron ore, lime and a coal of high calorific value, coke. Coke is produced in a battery of furnaces where mineral coal is subjected to high temperature. The coke battery in Barakaldo consists of thirty Otto-Didier furnaces built in the 1960s. These furnaces, rectangular in shape and about 11m long, substituted the first coke battery, built in 1921 and 1924. The blast furnace, the coke battery and the Bessemer converter are the three fundamental technological elements in the iron and steel industry. The Basque Country did not manage to keep any of its Bessemer converters, but did manage to protect one of its blast furnaces, blast furnace number 1 from AHV, which is in the process of being refurbished to be opened as a museum.

La batería de hornos de coque de PROFUSA en pleno desmantelamiento en una foto del día 20 de febrero de 2016. AVPIOP

La batería de hornos de coque de PROFUSA en pleno desmantelamiento en una foto del día 20 de febrero de 2016. AVPIOP

Unfortunately, despite our insistent efforts, permission has now been given, unexplainably, to demolish the PROFUSA coke battery, a fundamental element of our industrial heritage that has been kept in perfect condition up to this day.

The Basque Association for the Conservation of the Industrial and Public Works Heritage will immediately contact the Barakaldo City Mayor and Council, the Department for Culture of the Bizkaia Provincial Government and the Department for Industrial Heritage of the Basque Government to request the immediate suspension of the demolition of the PROFUSA coke battery, the protection and preservation of the complementary installations such as the freight cars and discharge wagons, and the restoration of the elements already subtracted, such as the furnace doors.