In 1914 H.J.E. Wenckebach and J.C Ankersmit began planning construction of a steelworks in the Netherlands, in 1916 Ankersmit left for the USA leaving Wenckebach to continue the work; on 19 April 1917 Wenckerbach presented his plans which included the establishment of three blast furnaces, a coking plant, and plants for utilising the by products of the process (coking gas, and slag). In May 1917 a Comité voor oprichting van een hoogovenstaal- en walswerk in Nederland (Committee for establishing blast furnaces and steel rolling mill in the Netherlands) was set up, with the aim of creating a steel works and rolling mills. The plan received support from the large industrial concerns and capitalists of the Netherlands, including Stork, Royal Dutch Shell, Steenkolen Handels-Vereeniging (SHV) and Philips; Hendrikus Colijn, Frits Fentener van Vlissingen, and J. Muysken. Additionally the dutch state and the city of Amsterdam contributed 7.5million and 5million of the 30million dutch guilders required to capitalise the project.
On September 20, 1918 the company Koninklijke Nederlandsche Hoogovens en Staalfabrieken N.V. (KNHS) was created in The Hague. Wenckenbach was the Director, Geldolph Adriaan Kessler the secretary, and A.H. Ingen Housz the company's assignee.
One of the motivations for the creation of a steelworks was to remove the reliance on imported steel, the country's resources of coal and iron ore were also limited, so a site suitable for both import and export by sea was chosen; Ijmuiden was chosen over sites at Rotterdam and Moerdijk due to better ground conditions. The site was on the north bank of the North Sea Canal, beyond its final locks, construction of harbors began -the inner harbour opened in 1920, and the outer harbour in 1923.
By 1924 the first blast furnace, casting hall, coke plant, and an electricity generating plant powered by waste gases from the coke ovens and blast furnaces. The second of two blast furnaces begun in 1919 became operational in 1926. Both blast furnaces were constructed to a design by American company Freyn, Brassert &Co.. The coking plant continued to be expanded throughout the 1920s and 30s, and after WW2. Coal tar by-product from coking was used by the chemical works Cindu (Chemische Industrie Uithoorn), cleaned coke oven gas was used in the site's power plant, and also in nearby municipalities. A brickworks (NV Phoenix Maatschappij voor Vervaardiging van Hoogovensteen), designed to utilise slag from the blast furnace to make building products - the enterprise ceased in 1927. A third blast furnace started operation in 1930.
In 1928 the KNHS and Royal Dutch Shell created a joint venture Mekog which was to manufacturer fertiliser using chemicals derived from coke oven gas. A second subsidiary was founded in 1930; an on site cement factory established as a joint venture between KNHS and the dutch concrete company Eerste Nederlandse Cement Industrie (ENCI), it was named Cementfabriek IJmuiden (CEMIJ) and manufactured cement using granulated furnace slag as an additive.
During the 1930s the plant was further developed, turning from raw iron production to steel production using open hearth furnaces; again Freyr, Brassert & Co. were chosen to supply the plant's design. A pipe foundry was opened in 1936, and in 1938 construction of a steel conversion plant using the Siemens-Martin (Open Hearth) process was begun. The first (60t capacity) open hearth furance opened 19 March 1939, additional furnaces were added during the 1940s and early 1950s, and the capacity of the furnaces increased - by 1956 the plant had six furnaces, each of 190t capacity. Construction of the plant's first rolling mill (Walserij West) was begun in the late 1930s. During occupation during WW2 the mill was confiscated and shipped to Watenstedt (Salzgitter), Germany where it was installed in the Reichswerke Hermann Göring steel plant. Post-war the mill was returned to the Netherlands, and remained in operation until decommissioned in 1992.
The Van Leer company established steel rolling mill (Walsbedrijven NV) at the IJmuiden site in the late 1930s; a plate mill began production in 1938, followed by a strip and profile mill in 1939. As built it was outdated; utilising second hand equipment; the mill was built to supply the Van Leer company's own steel needs, and not as an independent commercial concern. was During Nazi occupation during WW2 Van Leer's Jewish owner Bernard van Leer was forced to flee the country in 1941, and the mill was acquired by KNHS, and integrated into the rest of the IJmuiden site, it became known as Walserij Oost, remaining in use until 1953, being replaced by the mills of Breedband NV.
During WW2 the company was affected by the German occupation; in 1941 Vereinigte Stahlwerke had acquired 40% of the company from the shareholdings of the state and city of Amsterdam. The directors of the company Housz and Holtrop went into hiding in 1943. The mouth of the North Sea canal at IJmuiden was used as a base for the Kriegsmarine, and the steelworks itself was a strategic target for attack, bombings and lack of raw materials brought production to a halt.
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