Our History

The history of our site

The history of our site goes back to 1906, when investors founded Metallwerke Unterweser AG in the Friedrich-August-Hütte district. Ores from other European countries as well as from overseas were to be smelted there. 

In 1908, the first zinc furnace went into operation, and the processing of secondary lead raw materials started in 1912. In 1914, the Grand Duke Friedrich August II finally also authorized the smelting of lead ores - i.e. the production of primary lead. At that time, many new jobs were created and from 80 people in the year of foundation, the workforce grew to 750 employees in 1914.

Despite many adversities such as world wars, economic crises and natural disasters, the lead and zinc smelters were able to survive over the decades. The number of employees, which had decreased during the crises, increased again, and in 1956 about 850 employees worked at the plant. The smelter was the largest employer in Nordenham; in 1960 Preussag AG became the new owner. In addition, workers from southern Europe were actively recruited in the following years.

The thermal process with horizontal muffles, which was the industrial standard until well into the 1960s, was used for zinc production. The number of muffles was increased and 25,000 tons of zinc were produced.

From the 1970s onward, the issue of environmental protection has gained greater prevalence. Tens of millions were invested in new technologies and environmental protection measures over the coming decades. The plants were continuously developed to reduce emissions and increase production capacities. Among other things, the construction of a new shaft furnace ensured that lead production could be greatly increased: to 70,000 tons per year. In 1972, the zinc smelter was also able to take off with a new modern plant. Working conditions improved continuously. Zinc production was quadrupled by switching to zinc electrolysis. Certain equipment, such as the fluidized bed furnace, was developed specifically for the zinc smelter.

In 2003, Metaleurop sold the zinc smelter to the mining company Xstrata, a subsidiary of the Glencore Group. The lead smelter, however, remained in the possession of Metaleurop, so that the two smelters were now operated separately. In 2007, Metaleurop became Recylex S.A. and the lead smelter became Weser-Metall GmbH. In 2013 the Nordenham zinc smelter became part of the Glencore Group. Since 2021 the lead smelter has also belonged to the Glencore Group under the new name Nordenham Metall GmbH. 

Thus, after almost 20 years, the lead and zinc smelters are once again united under one roof - to form the Glencore Nordenham site. With the strength of an international company, we still have deep regional roots today. Around 165,000 tons of zinc are now produced each year. Over 100,000 metric tons of lead are now produced in Nordenham each year; a reduction furnace also enables flexible processing of low-lead input materials and increased extraction of precious metals such as silver, gold and platinum, among others.

Occupational safety has become a core corporate objective. Great improvements have been made, bringing us closer to our goal of having zero work-related injuries. We work to improve the sustainability performance of our industrial operations. For more information on our climate and sustainability performance, see our latest Climate and Sustainability Reports for further details. We can also look back on great successes here, for example in reducing emissions.
We are optimistic about the future. In recent years, we have been able to steadily increase the number of employees as well as our production figures. This development is continuing.