Iron Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Iron Industry


the sector of mining engaged in the obtaining of iron ore and in its primary processing—crushing, sorting, concentrating, homogenizing, and agglomerating particles by sintering or pelletizing. The iron industry is the raw-material basis of ferrous metallurgy. Iron ore has been extracted and iron produced from it since ancient times. Iron industry as a sector of the economy began to develop rapidly in the first half of the 18th century in connection with the increased smelting of pig iron and steel.

The iron industry of prerevolutionary Russia was a back-ward sector of the mining industry, with its main centers in Krivoi Rog and the Urals. In the USSR the iron industry has become a potent sector of the economy, equipped with modern technology. The USSR has significant reserves of rich iron ores and practically unlimited reserves of poor ores. In terms of the reserve balance and the volume of production of marketable iron ore, the USSR leads the world. Tremendous iron ore resources and a corresponding development of production facilities make possible the full satisfaction of the growing ferrous metallurgy requirements of the USSR and a number of socialist countries for marketable ore. Mines that work deposits underground have been equipped with the latest technology, and highly economic open-pit mining is being rapidly developed; new and highly productive equipment for underground mining has been developed, ensuring continuous and dependable processes of extraction and concentration of ores and allowing the integrated mechanization of the basic production processes—stripping the overburden and extracting, loading, delivering, crushing, sorting, and transporting the ore.

In the postwar years poor ores (ferriferous quartzites and oolyte brown hematites) have been introduced into industrial use, a change which represents a more rational use of the country’s raw material resources and an improved allocation of production forces. Further concentration of production is of great importance. The growth of ore output in the USSR is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Output of marketable iron ore in the USSR (in millions of tons)

The ratio of output of open-pit mining to total output in-creased from 54.3 percent in 1959 to 79.2 percent in 1970. Output of poor ores increased sharply. The ratio of concentrates in marketable ore increased from 53.6 percent in 1965 to 62.3 percent in 1970. Concentrates are subjected to agglomeration by sintering them with the addition of fluxes. The production of fluxed agglomerate is expanding. At the same time another long-range method of agglomeration is being used—the agglomerating of concentrates in special equipment, followed by baking of the pieces to obtain pellets, which are a high-quality metallurgical raw material. The smelting of pellets increases the productivity of blast furnaces and reduces expenditures of coke. The ninth five-year plan, for 1971–75, calls for increasing the output of iron-ore pellets approximately four times and organizing the industrial production of metallized iron-ore raw material. Metallized pellets containing up to 95 percent iron can be resmelted directly in electric furnaces to produce special types of steel. Plans are being made for the complete extraction of metal from ores and for improvement of the comprehensive use of raw material. The vital task of the iron industry is to discover and survey rich and easily concentrated ores suitable for open-pit mining in areas near existing mining enterprises and metallurgical mills. The use of the latest technology in the iron industry has improved the quality indexes of production. In connection with the increased output of poor ores, the content of iron in crude ore has dropped on the average from 40.8 percent in 1965 to 37.3 percent in 1970, but its content in marketable ore has increased in these years from 56.7 percent to 58.8 percent and in concentrate form from 50.0 percent to 61.8 percent. The production of iron-ore sinters totaled 137.2 million tons and production of pellets totaled 10.5 million tons in 1970. In the output of agglomerates, the USSR leads the world. The homogenizing of ore, the use of fluxed agglomerate, and the use of pellets have improved the technical and economic indexes of blast-furnace smelting.

There has been a radical change, especially since the war, in the geographical distribution of known reserves of iron ores. More reserves of ore have been found in the eastern regions of the USSR, where a powerful metallurgical base is being created. The need to bring the production of metal near to sources of raw materials and fuel and consumers and to shorten the hauling distances of ore, coke, fluxes, and metal scrap is being taken into consideration in building mining and metallurgical enterprises in Siberia, the Far East, and Kazakhstan.

The Krivoi Rog Iron-ore Basin is the most important ore base in the European part of the USSR. It supplies ore to factories in the Dnieper region, the Donbas, and other areas, as well as to a number of socialist countries. In 1969 the Krivoi Rog Basin produced 100.2 million tons, 53.8 percent of total USSR output. The great amount of crude ore produced in the basin, a high ratio of total USSR output, is handled by five tremendous and highly mechanized mining and concentrating combines based on open-pit mining and the processing of ferriferous quartzites—the luzhnyi Combine (put into operation in 1955), the Novyi Krivoi Rog (1959), the Tsentral’nyi (1961), the Severnyi (1964), and the Ingulets (1965). The Azovstal’ Works (in the city of Zhdanov) depends mainly on ore from the Kerch Iron-ore Basin. The Kamysh-Burun ore combine produced about 5 million tons of marketable ore in 1970. Plants in the central part of the country (the Novolipetsk and others) depend mainly on ore from the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly; this ore is unique in terms of the quality of its magnetite ores, in some areas containing 60 percent to 65 percent iron almost without harmful admixtures. The reserves of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly exceed any of the world’s other largest deposits many times over. Total output of commodity ore is in excess of 10 million tons per year, and it is planned to bring the output of iron ore by ore enterprises of the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly to approximately 40 million tons in 1975. The Cherepovets Works depends on iron ore from the magnetite ores of the Olenegorsk, Kirovogorsk, and Eno-Kovdor deposits in Murmansk Oblast.

In the eastern part of the country the deposits in the Urals, Siberia, and Kazakhstan are being developed at an accelerated rate. Enterprises of the Kachkanar Mining and concentrating Combine and the Severo-Peschanskoe Mine (Sverdlovsk Oblast) are operating in the Urals. Because of expanded blast-furnace production at the Magnitogorsk Combine, Magnitnaia Mountain (Cheliabinsk Oblast) can no longer fully meet the combine’s ore requirements. The combine obtains ore from the Sokolovo-Sarbai Mining and Concentrating Combine in Kustanai Oblast of Kazakhstan. In the Kustanai iron-ore basin, the Sokolovsko-Sarbai Mining and Concentrating Combine has been built (planned capacity of the first stage is 26.5 million tons of crude ore per year), and construction is in progress (1972) on the Lisakovsk Mining and Concentrating Combine (planned capacity of the first stage is 36 million tons of crude ore per year) and the Kachar Mining and Concentrating Combine (capacity of 2.1 million tons of iron ore per year). They will provide factories of the Southern Urals with raw material. The ores of the tremendous Angara-Pit iron-ore basin in Krasnoiarsk Krai and the Angara-Him iron-ore region in Irkutsk Oblast are the base for developing metallurgy in Siberia. The largest and best surveyed of 13 deposits of magnetite ore in the Angara-llim Basin are the Rudnogorsk and Korshunova deposits. The Korshunova Mining and Concentrating Combine has been built with a planned capacity of 15 million tons of crude ore per year. Ore output has been increased at mines of Kemerovo Oblast, and mines have been put into operation in Krasnoiarsk Krai to provide the Kuznetsk Combine (Kemerovo Oblast) with ore. Ore deposits in the Aldan Raion (Yakut ASSR), the Berezovaia deposit (Chita Oblast), the Garin and Lebedikhinskoe deposits (Amur Oblast), and the Kimkan deposit (Khabarovsk Krai) are advantageously situated with relation to deposits of coking coals of the South Yakutia coal basin.

The iron industry is also developing successfully in other socialist countries. There are deposits of iron ore in Poland, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia. Supplies of iron ore in Bulgaria and Hungary are negligible. Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, the German Democratic Republic, and to some extent Poland import iron ore. China is rich in iron ores, which occur in many provinces, especially in the northeastern part of the country.

The iron industry of the capitalist countries is characterized by a disparity between reserves of ores and their production and use. Countries with underdeveloped metallurgical industry have large iron-ore resources. Three-fourths of the iron-ore reserves of the capitalist world are concentrated in four countries—Brazil, Canada, India, and Australia. The total iron-ore reserves of the USA are rated at 10 billion tons (with an iron content of about 60 percent). Reserves of the rich ores of the Great Lakes (the main ore base of the USA) are 1.1 billion tons. About 90 percent of the ore is obtained by open-pit mining. In connection with decreasing reserves of rich ores, much attention is being given to the use of poor ores (taconites). The USA produced 91 million tons and imported 40 million tons of marketable iron ore in 1969. France has the largest iron-ore deposit in Western Europe, the Lorraine deposit, with total reserves of 7.1 billion tons, including 4.5 billion reliable and probable reserves (with 30 percent iron content). In 1969, 56 million tons of marketable ore were produced and 19 million tons were exported. Sweden holds second place in iron-ore production (after France) among the capitalist countries of Europe. Its reserves of rich ores are estimated at 2.4 billion tons; in 1969 it produced 30 million tons and exported 28 million. India’s iron-ore reserves are as much as 22 billion tons. The ore is obtained in open-pit mining. In 1969, 30 million tons were produced and 19 million tons exported. The ore reserves of Brazil are estimated at 16.5 billion tons (iron content 50 percent to 66 percent), and 27 million tons of ore were produced and 18 million tons exported in 1969. Canada has considerable reserves of rich ores, and it produced 38 million tons and exported 32 million tons (mostly to the USA) in 1969. In 1969, 32 million tons of ore were produced in Australia, 24 million in Liberia, 19 million in Venezuela, and 12 million in Chile. Great Britain, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and Japan do not have sufficient stocks of rich iron ores; they meet their needs by mining poor ores and importing rich ores.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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