The Economic History of Steelmaking, 1867-1939: A Study in Competition

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter IX
NEW ORES FOR STEEL; OR, THE ADVANTAGES OF LOCATION

In the 'seventies what British iron or steelmakers lost on wages they probably made up on raw materials. Their ores and coal were at least as cheaply worked as those of their rivals, with the possible exception of the States, and although it was now rare for them to find ore and coal together, the distance between their ores and good coking coal was far less than for Continental and American makers, and the assembling points of the foreign materials were less well placed for export business than the chief British centres. Even where in Britain mining or transport costs were relatively heavy, as they were for the pig iron used for steel, the combined costs for similar pig elsewhere were heavier still.

By the close of the century all this had changed. More and cheaper ores had become available for competitors' steel, and were being used; new ore fields had been opened up, better methods of mining had been adopted, and transport costs had been greatly lessened by technical improvements and by favourable rate policies. In Britain, too, more and cheaper ores became available, but they were being used only to a slight extent, and transport facilities had scarcely been either improved or cheapened.

The most astonishing changes occurred in the States. The extension of mining round Lake Superior had culminated in the discovery of the richest of the deposits, the Mesabi range, where much of the ore could be worked amazingly cheaply by giant steam shovels. Alongside this there was an equally important, perhaps fundamentally more important, change in the organisation of the transport of ore to Chicago and Pittsburg.1 The canal

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1

There was a continuous stream of European literature on this from the 'nineties onward: e.g. Engineering, Oct. 16. 1890, p. 438, reprinting a long American

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