U. S. Steel – Mon Valley Works, Fairless Plant
The Mon Valley Works is an integrated steelmaking operation that includes four facilities: Clairton Plant, Edgar Thomson Plant, Irvin Plant and Fairless Plant. At the Fairless Plant, a finishing facility located near Philadelphia, Pa., cold-rolled products are finished into galvanized sheet on a 65-inch hot-dip galvanize line. The facility was formerly part of the larger United States Steel Corporation’s Fairless Works, a fully integrated steelmaking facility. At the time of its construction in March 1951, it was the largest steel mill ever built from the ground up, and it was the first steel plant built in the post-World War II era. Iron- and steelmaking began in December 1952. U. S. Steel began shutting down portions of the facility in the early 1980s due to challenging market conditions. By 2001, the hot-dip galvanizing line was the only remaining production facility and was integrated into the company’s Mon Valley Works operations.
In 1945, when Fairless was still President of USS, he met with a mining engineer named Mack Lake. Lake told Fairless that he believed there was iron ore in Venezuela, south of the Orinoco River. He asked Fairless to subsidize the research for the ore and Fairless agreed. Lake proved there was massive quantities of high grade ore in that area. U.S. Steel bought and developed the Orinoco Ore Mine. Under pressure from the Truman Administration to increase steel capacity as a pre-emptive measure in response to the Cold War, U.S. Steel and Fairless began drawing up plans for a totally new and modern steel mill on the East Coast to take advantage of the Venezuela Orinoco ore. A site was chosen on the east border of Pennsylvania on the Delaware River 30 mile north of Philadelphia, near Morrisville, Pa. Ore ships could steam from Venezuela and up the Delaware to unload without travelling the Panama Canal, saving shipping costs. Ben Fairless oversaw every aspect of the new mill's design and construction. The new Fairless Works was named after him. His daughters and granddaughters helped to christen and start the new Fairless Works on December 11, 1952.
In 1954, the Association for Iron and Steel Technology inaugurated the Benjamin F. Fairless Award in his honor. The American Iron and Steel Institute also created the Benjamin F. Fairless Memorial Medal in his name, its highest award given to a person outside the steel industry.