JFE Steel halts last blast furnace in major industrial area near Tokyo

A major Japanese steelmaker has shut down the last blast furnace at its plant in the city of Kawasaki, near Tokyo.

The move means the end of a history of steel production of over 100 years with blast furnaces on the Kawasaki waterfront -- part of an industrial zone that constitutes one of the country's three largest industrial areas.

JFE Steel halted the operation of the blast furnace at its steel mill on the city's waterfront in the Keihin Industrial Area at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The precursor to JFE Steel began steel production using blast furnaces in the area during Japan's Taisho Era in the early 20th century.

Steelmaking flourished in the area to support the country's rapid economy growth later in the century and became the symbolic industry of the Keihin region.

But the steelmaker decided to shut down the plant's last operating blast furnace amid a shrinking domestic market and intensifying competition in production for exports.

The Kawasaki city government and JFE Steel are planning to convert the vast site into a hydrogen base in a joint project.