A short history of Australia’s steel industry

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Published by: iFactory Support, 10 December 2023

These days, Australia’s steel industry is more illustrious than ever, with companies like ours benefiting from the discovery of rich natural resources, both in this country and abroad. This isn’t a success that happened overnight, though. Join us as we take a brief trip through time to look at how steel manufacturing became the prosperous industry it is today.

Starting at the beginning

In 1840, in Iron Knob Australia, a great many iron ore deposits were found. Although those that made this discovery weren’t to know it, this was to mark the beginning of a brand-new industry in Australia. At the time, there just weren’t the expertise or facilities available for manufacturing to make anything of this rich new discovery. Poor attempts at the creation of pig iron just couldn’t compete with superior products being produced in countries such as Great Britain.

This would all change, however, at the turn of the century, as the industrial revolution brought with it a greater demand for steel and more technical knowledge.

Having a blast

In 1901, Australia’s first blast furnace began its career. This development was a sign of the times, as there was heavy demand for steel up and down the country. With railways being built, and local industry demanding more and more steel products and machinery, current manufacturing methods just weren’t sustainable anymore – there was the need for something more powerful.

Things began to develop a lot faster at this point, with another steel mill opening in Newcastle in 1915. To create steel, this mill used coal sourced locally, and iron ore from South Australia. More mills were soon to open up and down the country, and the steel industry was beginning to look like an increasingly vital part of the Australian infrastructure.

The steel boom

In the years between the 1960s and the 1980s, demand for steel increased massively. The struggles of the second world war were long gone, so this was a time for regeneration and rebuilding. Demand for steel production jumped from 4.6 million tonnes to 10 million tonnes, in less than 20 years.

Competition from overseas

In the 80s, it became apparent that local industry just couldn’t compete with the much cheaper products offered by overseas suppliers such as China.

This pressure from South East Asia made it necessary for industry leaders in Australia to consider how steel production could be revamped. New, more productive technologies and organisational procedures were introduced, and efforts were made to create a more sustainable steel industry.

The steel industry today

Things have changed a lot since the beginnings of Australian steel production. These days, most steel is manufactured on foreign shores, then sent here to be processed and fabricated by quality steel cutting services such as ShapeCUT. As an industry, we’re also more environmentally conscientious than ever, with steel now the world’s most recycled product. The future is sure to hold great things for the Australian steel industry and we’re excited to be a part of it.

Image: Gundagai historic bridges