History

In the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, the area of Upper Silesia mastered processes connected with economic transformation, which changed this green and agricultural region into one of the largest industrial centres of Europe.

Mastery of the little-known technology of zinc smelting was underway at the same time as pit-shafts were drilled and blast furnaces were constructed. State administration, which experimented in leadworks in Strzybnica, as well as private equity, put their hopes in this new metal. Finally, the first successful zinc smelting was carried out in 1792 by Johann Christian Ruhberg in glassworks in Wesoła, which was a possession of the Duchy of Pszczyna. The significance of this event may be proven by the special precautions which were applied to protect the new technology and the nickname „Silesian Fausta”, which many called Ruhberg

Obtaining zinc required compensating its aeriform, but eliminating air. Despite this great secret, the details of the muffle which design was based on a glass pot were soon known to other industrialists. Since then, aside from a few minor difficulties, Upper Silesian zinc production capacity has developed systematically. Local rich deposits of zinc ore and coal along with a wide market enabled payment for investment of potential investors in just a few months since the steelworks have been launched. In 1837, 49 factories that smelt this metal were up and running.

With time, the four largest manufacturers emerged from the concentration of zinc production in the industry: Śląskie Kopalnie and Cynkownie in Lipiny, Prince Hohenlohe in Wełnowiec, Count Donnersmarck in Nowa Wieś and Georg von Giesche’s Erben in Szopienice. The origins of the latter companies are associated with the activities of George Giesche, a Wroclaw merchant who began trading calamine in the Upper Silesia voivodship at the beginning of the 18th century. In 1704, thanks to the Emperor’s efforts, he obtained a monopoly dedicated for extracting raw materials used mainly in the production of brass. Unfortunately this privilege ended in 1802, along with the era of smelting zinc from calamine. Inheritors of Giesche decided to focus the businesses activities on smelting zinc and mining cornerstone. In 1809, they built their first ironworks in Szarlej. Aside from the flotation another two plants in following years, the flotation of steelworks called „Wilhelmina” in Szopienice in 1834 was a major breakthrough in the history of the company. At this moment, the construction of other steelworks in its immediate neighbourhood began, including "Uthemann", "Bernhardi" and "Walter Croneck".

In the early twentieth century, Szopienice factories produced a little under 25 tons of zinc and employed over 2100 people. The concern's officials acceded to modernize and further develop the plants in this period. One of the points in the plan was to build their own zinc rolling mill. Its production enabled treatment of raw metal and opened doors to new markets in construction and in electrical engineering in the near future. The hall with a new production line was put up near steelworks called „Bernhardi”.

The roll line consisted of two furnaces for melting zinc, heating furnace, a movable moulding table and one cogging mill and three finishing mills, powered by four steam engines. Production commenced in 1904. Even then, 144 people were employed here and produced less than 7 thousand tons of metal. In later years, the rolling mill expanded its assortment thanks to devices installed for the production of tape, zinc wire, and battery cans. In 1922, when the Upper Silesia region became a part of Poland, most of the company's manufacturing resources were found on the Polish side of the border. Following this, a new entity was established in Katowice - "Giesche" SA, under the supervision of the former owners. In 1926, they decided to sell the holding to Silesian-American Corporation (SACO), which shares were owned by U.S. capital and the company's previous owners. During World War II, German owners bought U.S. shares and added it to the recently divided assets of Georg Giesche's Erben A.G.

After World War II came to an end, Szopienice factories were nationalized and merged into a single plant, which at the beginning was called Zakłady Cynkowe Szopienice (Szopienice Zinc Plants), later changed the name to Zakłady Hutnicze Sopienice (Szopienice Metallurgical Plants), and finally, Huta Metali Niezależnych Szopienice (Szopienice Non-ferrous Metal Factory) since 1972. The establishment's production profile was changed systematically from raw materials to processing. A copper refinery was built already in the years 1947-1949. A rolling mill for copper tape and a copper millstone were later established. Since 2000, the majority of shares in the company were passed on into private hands and became part of the group called „Impexmetal S.A.”. Two years later, production on zinc rolling mill came to a stop. In 2008, the shareholders of the company decided to liquidate the factory, which was finally suspended at the request of the Treasury.