Monday, January 5, 2015

A comment on current Chinese vs Second World War Iron Ore demand

China uses roughly 700 million tonnes of steel per year (or at least used that much before recent declines).

Really good iron ore  62 percent iron - so there is at least 1.1 billion tonnes of iron ore used per year.

My summer weekend reading is Winston Churchill's history series - and I am currently on his book on the lead up to and the early phase of the Second World War.

In it he is writing to the then Prime Minister about interdicting the shipping of iron ore from then neutral Norway to Nazi Germany.

Churchill estimates that German industry needs 9.5 million [presumably imperial] tons of ore between 1 May and 15 December 1940.

During the armaments build-up phase of the Second World War Germany was using less than 20 million tonnes of iron ore per year or way less than 2 percent of current Chinese usage.

Gosh there is a lot of steel usage and capacity in China.



Anonymous said...

German houses (and other buildings) were essentially all brick and wood at the time. Making a few tanks and boats is not comparable to rebuilding a whole populous country in steel frame.

John Hempton said...

It is not as if the Ruhr Valley has traditionally had very few steel mills...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the world steadily develops. At least the steel consumption in the last years is not out of the historical growth level.

Anonymous said...

So they are using 2.5x as much ore per capita per year as Germany did in pa in ww2...?

Robert in Chicago said...

70m Germans in 1940 vs. ~1390m Chinese now. China population is still growing by ~1/8th of the Germany's total population per year.

Germany was building "only" tanks and planes vs. Ghinese massive infrastructure (bridges, train lines, airports, ghost cities, "investment" condos, apartment blocks that are actually inhabited for the Great Migration; even concrete roads use plenty of rebar).

And BTW it's winter, you idiot. America Rules!

Anonymous said...

China is approximately 250 times larger than the Ruhr valley (pop 5m, probably similar then), most of whose buildings (including the steel mills, as you can see when visiting those being preserved as historical landmarks) are as much brick and wood as those in the rest of Germany of that era.

The size of that historical steel industry in popular imagination is inevitably going to be outsized relative to its production capacity in tons of steel compared to today, because of its historical role and because of its impact on the place, when steel making was surely a much more labour intensive process than it is today.

Quick google shows pre-war Ruhr peak steel production at 4M tons a year. Arcelor Mittal, a single if large company, has a production capacity of 120M tons a year with just 200K employees.

Anonymous said...

700 M / 0.62 == 1129 MM == 1.1 B

Not trillion, billion.

Anonymous said...

I think maybe you meant BILLION? Not TRILLION?

Anonymous said...


Romandière said...

A little calculus: about one third of the iron ore was mined within Germany. That was approx. 10m mt what brings total consumption of iron ore at 30m mt (not 20)

I think present consumption of iron ore in the US is at 35m mt.

In that context consumption in China is immense.

Anonymous said...

And before WWII Germany was rebuilding under treaty restrictions.
Go look at the pre WWI arms race, especially the naval arms race.
On a per-capita and percent of GDP basis, as best I can estimate, was horrible.

WellRed said...

Great series, although too much administrative detail in later books.

IMO the first book was probably the best, with the 2nd and 6th not far behind.

The middle is a bit of a slog.

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