There´s no steel without coke. It was only when coke began to be used in 1769 that "Minette" (iron ore with a relatively small proportion of iron) really began to pay off as a raw material for making iron and steel. In 1881 the ore surmounted another hurdle on its way to partnering iron and steel when the Thomas process for making iron was introduced in Hayange. With the aid of lime the "Minette" was able to cast off its share of phosphorus, but this was incompatible with the Bessemer process in use at the time. Thus the later invention in England, by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, made a crucial contribution to the rise of the iron and steel industry on the Rivers Fentsch and Orne. Ore mining not only took place underground; there was also enough work on the surface to ensure that the ore was mined.
The Bassompierre iron ore mine in Aumetz is situated around 20 km away from the demonstration mine in Neufchef. Here visitors can see what it was like to work underground, whereas the site in Aumetz tells them all about the surface work. It contains a forge, a workshop for repairing the compressors, an engine room and a winding engine dating back to the 1960s, coal wagons hanging on wire cables and a machine outfit whose finest exhibit is a 40 ton Alstom electric locomotive. Things really gets exciting when visitors are shown a production line of liquid oxygen cartridges, as well as slow fuse weaving machines.
The highly visible symbol of the pit in Aumetz is the 35 meter high, metal pithead tower, built in 1942, that can be seen far and wide. Visitors are allowed to climb to the top of this huge yellow construction, from which they can get a fine view over the industrial landscape and the rows of old working class houses that are still standing in Aumetz today. They bear witness to the extent to which so many people were exploited in order to bring iron ore to the surface. Today that is now all history: films and old photographs of the ore mines in Lorraine have preserved this history for current and future generations.