[Location Factors]: Iron-Coal based industries, & Industrial inertia for UPSC GS Mains Paper 1

map-ruhr-sweden iron steel industry

[Location Factors]: Iron-Coal based industries, & Industrial inertia for UPSC GS Mains Paper 1

  1. Prologue
  2. Iron-coal industry Location factors
  3. Iron Industry: three locations
    1. #1: Near Forest
    2. #2: Near coal fields
    3. #3: Near coastal areas
  4. Factor: Empty Wagons
    1. Ural-Kuznetsk combine
    2. Bokaro Rourkela Combine
    3. The curious case of Cleveland
  5. Factor: Coking coal Shortage
  6. Factor: Technology
  7. Industrial Inertia
    1. Why industrial inertia?
    2. Inertia due to Government Policy
  8. Factor: strategic reasons
  9. Factor: Developmental policies

Iron-coal industry

  • Iron ore + coke + limestone ==heat==> pig iron.
  • pig iron=more processing=>cast-iron, wrought iron, steel and variety of alloys

Therefore, Essential inputs are:

  1. iron ore, coking coal and limestone
  2. water for cooling
  3. energy for heating

Steel industry also requires dolomite, manganese etc. but in small quantities=> their presence is not the main deciding factor for the location.

The three locations

  1. Near Forest
  2. Near Coalmines
  3. Near Coastal Areas

#1: Near Forest

  • Until the end of medieval period, iron production was done on small scale.
  • Energy was immobile (No wires to move electricity, No trains to move coal).
  • To produce five tons of iron, you had to chop down one acre of forest to get sufficient charcoal.
  • Therefore, wood supply=primary factor for deciding location. And smelters were usually setup near forest areas
  • Even in Modern times, Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (Karnataka) was setup near jungle to get wood-charcoal. (Later switched to hydro-electricity  from Sharawati river)

#2: Near coal fields

During the Industrial Revolution, iron and steel industry were setup near coalmines, due to following reasons:

  1. The coalfield region had a tradition of iron working based on charcoal as a result coalfield areas already had the labour and technology.
  2. In Britain, iron ore was found embedded with coal seams= same area provided both iron ore + coal
  3. During that era, to process 1 tons of iron ore, you needed 8-12 tons of coal. Railway engines were also inefficient. So, weight-wise, it was cheaper to transport iron ore to coalfields rather than transporting coal to iron ore site.
Iron-industry near coalmines:
Germany Ruhr Valley, Saxony region
Britain Lancashire, York shire, South Wales
United States Appalachian-Pennsylvania-great Lakes
Australia New South Wales region
China Wuhan, Anshan, Chongqing

by the way,

Why do we need “Coking coal”?

Because Iron ore=has iron oxide. But We’re only interested in iron. So, we’ve to get rid of the “oxide” part.

  • Then how can we remove the “oxide” part? Ans. Make him marry with carbon and form “Carbon dioxide”.
  • But where will you get the carbon? Ans. Coking coal. Because Coking coal has high concentration of carbon, compared to cheap varieties of coal like Lignite. Therefore you’ve to mix the coking coal with iron ore.

Iron Ore (Iron Oxide) + Coking Coal (source of Carbon) + Limestone (reducing agent)=heat*=> Iron + CO2 + slag.

*for heating you can use other variety of coal / even electricity.

#3: Near coastal areas

  • By early 20th century the coal and iron ore mines in US-Europe started getting depleted. So, they started importing iron ore from other countries.
  • As a result the iron space and steel industry started moving toward coastal sites to reduce cost of transporting ores from port to factory via railways.
Near Coastal region:
Japan Iron steel industry is developed @coastal areas/port location because they rely on imported coal and iron-ore. E.g. steel industry in Osaka-Kobe
India Steel plants @Vishakhapatnam, Ratnagiri, Mangalore
Malaysia Has iron ore but not enough coalTherefore steel plants located near coastal area to get imported coal @minimum transport cost.
USA In the coastal cities of Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago (using imported ores from Canada)

Factor: Empty Wagons

Ural-Kuznetsk combine

  • Ural=rich iron ore deposit
  • Kuznetsk Basin in Western Siberia = rich coal deposits- sent to Ural region by Railways.
  • The returning wagons after emptying coal, bring iron ore from Ural region.
  • Result=> iron-steel industry developed @both places.

Bokaro Rourkela Combine

  • Just like Ural-Kuznetsk, In India, Bokaro and Roukela steel plants:
  • Trains bring iron ore from Rourkela => Bokaro
  • and return with Coal from Bokaro =>Rourkela
  • This optimizes the use of transportation (because wagons are never empty), and helped in growth of iron-steel industry @both places.

The curious case of Cleveland

  • Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania State) =steel industry was started using local iron ore and coal.
  • But Local iron ore depleted so they started importing iron ore from Lake Superior region
  • Problem: ships would bring iron ore but on their return journey, they’d be empty=> uneconomic use of transport.
  • So, they started transporting Pittsburg coal to Lake Superior region in those returning ships=>steel industry developed in the lake region as well.
  • But Since Pittsburgh itself is not a coastal city, so the coal/iron had to be transported to a port (Cleveland) first using railways.
  • Thus, Cleveland (Ohio State) didn’t have iron ore or coal, yet got access to both => iron-steel industry developed in Cleveland. Same reason for Duluth in Minnesota.

Factor: Coking coal Shortage

map-ruhr-sweden iron steel industry

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