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A steel mill is one of the closest approximations of Hell on Earth, if Dante's Inferno is used as a yardstick. Since metal work requires extremely high temperatures, a steel mill is a humongous maze of eerie machinery, fiery furnaces, extreme temperatures, molten metal, poisonous gasses, foul smells and, most of all, heavy objects falling from height when least expected.
The steel mill can be either an integrated mill which produces steel from iron ore, or a mini-mill which produces steel from scrap. The nucleus of the former is the smelting works, which consists of ironworks (a blast furnace, which makes pig iron from iron ore, coke and limestone) and steelworks (either a converter or open hearth furnace, which makes steel from pig iron and scrap), and rolling mill, which prepares the steel products. The latter has typically an electric arc furnace for smelting the scrap and rolling mill for producing the steel products, such as sheet metal, slabs, girders and pipes. Usually the integrated steel mill also has cokeworks for making metallurgical coke from coal, and a chemical plant for further refining the coal tar into various chemicals. The by-product of blast furnace, slag, can be used on making roads, bricks and cement.
At best, a Steel Mill may be a Big Labyrinthine Building - the Severstal mill at Magnitogorsk, Russia, spreads twelve kilometers along the river Ural bank. Real Life steel mills are usually hangar-like, with large open spaces inside, due to the need to move around heavy equipment. At worst, it is a true Nightmarish Factory. Its Dangerous Workplace nature is often displayed by a large X Days Since Last Accident billboard.
There are even enormous hydraulic anvils, in case the metaphor is just not Anvilicious enough all on its own.
- The Deer Hunter, where the characters work as steelworkers. The picture was shot in a real steel mill at Mingo Junction, Ohio.
- The climax of Terminator 2: Judgment Day takes place in one, of course.
- The droid factory in Star Wars Episode II is the scene of a brutal battle between the heroes and their Geonosian adversaries.
- Saruman runs one at Isengard in Lord of the Rings.
- Ganz Unten ("Lowest of the Low") by Günther Wallraff. He describes of the working conditions of Turkish immigrant workers in the post-WWII German steel industry. Reading about [one of the workers stumbling at work and falling in the blast furnace is creepy.
- Jurgis worked in one in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. He described working in one far more favourably than working in Chicago meatpacking industry.
- The description given of Hank Rearden's mill in the second chapter of Atlas Shrugged. However, the incredible heat, heavy weights soaring overhead, and so forth are portrayed positively as symbolizing man's creative power and conquest of physical nature. Although a furnace leak later in the book does portray the extreme danger that are inherent in the processes of steel production very well.
- In the third season premiere Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets sent to a hell-factory that has all of these standard tropes, along with Year Inside, Hour Outside.
- The Cybermen set up one of these in Victorian London in the Tenth Doctor episode "The Next Doctor".
- Billy Joel tried for this in his "Allentown" video, but it just came off kind of Ho Yay.
- Bruce Springsteen in his "Youngstown". The "sweet Jenny" which he refers in that song is not a girl, but the Youngstown Steel and Tube Co. blast furnace named "Jeannette".
- The folk song The Dalesman's Litany is about the rural population of Yorkshire in the 19th century being forced to work in the rising industrial cities. The steel mills are not described in positive terms.
I've walked at night through Sheffield lanes, 'twas just as being in hell
Where furnaces thrust out tongues of fire and roared like the wind on the fell
- There are entire planets turned into steel mills in Warhammer 40000. With No OSHA Compliance, of course.
- The Fallout 3 add-on "The Pitt" gives up what may be the world's last functional steel mill, staffed by slaves in loincloths and sadistic criminals as their foreman. The leader, Ashur, hopes to use the industry provided by the mill to build a self-sufficient empire.
- Max Payne blasts through one of these in the third act of his first game. Apart from the other dangerous elements of the Cold Steel Foundry, he also has to deal with hired mercenaries and laser tripmines because it's a front for production of Valkyr as well as having a military bunker underneath the plant.
- In Batman: Arkham City Batman goes inside Sionis steel mill, the first time trough a chimney which there's a pool of molten metal below and second time trough the cooling tunnels with rivers of liquid nitrogen, the factory also serves as Joker's main hideout.
- In The Simpsons, Homer, worried about Bart's manliness after interactions with a gay shop-keeper, takes him to one of these mills to show him examples of masculinity. It backfired big time as it quickly converts into a gay disco.