THEY have manufactured a tough substance for a long time, but the last workers at Molycop faced their own hard time last week when the final shift came to an end.
Unions and outgoing workers alike have argued the last shift at Molycop on Friday spells an end to a manufacturing industry once synonymous with Newcastle.
Australian Workers Union (AWU) NSW branch secretary Tony Callinan put it succinctly.
"It's the end of an era for the Hunter and Newcastle, the last steelmaker in the region, it's a real sad day," he said.
Repercussions abound for the older staff looking for work, younger tradesmen weighing up whether to seek out new skills or the wisdom of a reliance on imports in a turbulent world.
Yet for those who have given their labour to the Waratah site formerly known as Commsteel, the impact was far less abstract.
"After 33 years we've had a lot of long-term friendships, we spend more time with the blokes at work than we do at home with our own families, so it's been a pretty tough time personally," team leader Paul Berthold told journalist Madeline Link on Friday.
While these moments are often framed in terms of economic realities and business decisions, the reality is that they are deeply human.
While the scale of the industry has varied substantially during the interim, the emotions involved may have been all too familiar to those who walked out of BHP decades earlier.
While these moments are often framed in terms of economic realities and business decisions, the reality is that they are deeply human.-
While it was heartbreaking, the end on Friday was no surprise. Molycop announced its plans in September last year, shedding 250 workers.
That followed years of lobbying the federal government to better defend the industry against imports, a plea which has evidently failed to keep the doors open.
Hunter industry in general is staring down the barrel of a crossroads, particularly those linked to mining and power generation. While there are few certainties in life, change is definitely one for these industries as governments continue to push the grid towards renewable sources with increasing fervour and urgency.
Hopefully scenes like those outside Molycop on Friday do not become too common in the years to come. That will require governments attentive to headwinds that will buffet this region.
It may be too late to save Molycop, but there are lessons for leaders that demand to be learned.
For one, while they did not comment on the day the union credited Molycop with handling the situation well. That included facilitating a job summit, another lesson for employers that may face shifts in the years to come.
These human moments come with many human frailties.
They are times for compassion, for support, for celebration of good times gone and commiseration of the ones gone begging.
For all the people who are bearing the brunt of this business choice, know that hard times will pass.
May you see soon that you are as durable and strong as the steel this city used to make.