HSC Geography Case Study
A Brief History of the Steel Industry at Port Kembla

Steelmaking at Port Kembla

Corporate Overview
Nature of the Port Kembla Steelworks
Steel Production (Processes & Products)

Working at the Steelworks
Steel Language

Important (www) Links
HSC Online
International Iron & Steel Institute

William Sandford made Australia's first heat of steel at the Eskbank ironworks in Lithgow, NSW, in 1900. This plant was acquired by the Hoskins Family in 1907. By 1919, Hoskins had become dependent on the Port Kembla district for its coal requirements (Wongawilli Colliery opened in 1916), and BHP had become a successful steelmaker at Newcastle, NSW.

These and other factors convinced Hoskins of the advantages of a tidewater site and, in 1921, land was acquired for the Steelworks at Port Kembla. The No 1 blast furnace was blown in on 29 August 1928.

With the onset of the depression in the 1930s, Australian Iron and Steel Ltd (AIS) (which had been publicly floated), experienced financial difficulties. Nevertheless, steelmaking began at Port Kembla in 1931, after which operations at Lithgow ceased. An offer from BHP for all the ordinary shares in AIS was accepted and so, by the end of 1935, AIS was wholly owned by BHP, although AIS remained a public company until the preference shares were redeemed in 1959.

BHP immediately provided the working capital and funds needed for expansion of the plant. The No 2 blast furnace was completed in 1938 and coke ovens were built on the site. The Steelworks, although then still smaller than the Newcastle Steelworks, made a significant contribution to the war effort in World War I.

In 1946, Port Kembla was selected as the site where BHP would build a hot strip mill, introducing new technology to Australia. During the 1950s, the No 1 coke battery, the hot strip mill, the No 2 open hearth steelmaking shop and the tinplate production facilities were commissioned.

In 1962, electrolytic tinning began and the wide plate mill was commissioned the following year. In 1972, the basic oxygen steelmaking (BOS) shop came into service, as did the No 5 blast furnace. The No 1 continuous slab casting plant was commissioned in 1978 and a third vessel was installed in the BOS shop in 1983. The No 2 continuous slab casting plant was commissioned in 1986 and the No 6 blast furnace was commissioned 10 years later in May 1996.

The John Lysaght (Australia) Limited, Springhill and CRM Works were acquired by BHP in 1979. Lysaght was originally an English company, and had been the principal supplier of sheet steel products to the Australian market from the late nineteenth century, under its famous ORB trade mark.

BHP Steel separated from the BHPBilliton group and two years later in 2003 became BlueScope Steel.

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