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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 12

I The First Half Century - The Initial Struggle

II The Second Fifty Years - The Start Of Expansion
i General Conditions
ii Early Iron Production
iii The Effects of the Gold Rush - Ballarat in Particular
iv Gawler - A South Australian Industrial Town
v Railways - A Major Employer
vi Brewing and Soft Drinks
vii Drink Containers
viii Food Containers

III The Third Fifty Years - Federation And The First World War

IV The Fourth Period - Second World War To The Present



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Early Iron Production

The first attempt at the establishment of iron and steel smelting in Australia was made in 1848, when a Sydney syndicate was formed to treat iron ore deposits near Mittagong NSW. There were obviously many problems with this establishment and there are varying accounts of its success or otherwise but a most interesting and detailed account is given by author Helen Hughes. It does appear that it had only produced 1 tonne pig iron by 1850 but another account stated that the small blast furnace, with subsidiary plant, produced a satisfactory quality of pig iron and that some of it was marketed in the USA. There were a number of syndicates that operated the enterprise but all seem to have lost on the venture, mainly because of the high costs of both fuel and transport of the iron to centres of distribution. In 1859 pig iron cost 5-2-6 in Melbourne compared with 2-14-6 in Glasgow. Further, the absence of a tariff to protect the embryo industry from imports was a further reason for closure in 1877.

Another attempt at iron smelting was made in Victoria in 1873, with the formation of Victoria Iron Company which went into liquidation and was reformed as the Lal Lal Iron Mining Co. Ltd. in 1874, and with the Phoenix Foundry as part owner. A small blast furnace was built in 1875 with a rating of 28 tonnes pig iron per week. This furnace operated into the 1880s with recovery about 46 per cent but was never an economic proposition. Even though an employee was sent to Britain to learn the technology associated with the construction of the Blast Furnace, it was five years before any degree of satisfactory production was achieved. Unfortunately, by that time the price of imported pig iron had fallen considerably as many more Clipper ships were arriving in pig iron ballast. The works produced only 600 tonnes in 1883 and 400 tonnes in the first half of 1884. The pig iron was also very hard and castings were restricted to stamper heads and locomotive wheels and the Company had to set up its own foundry, Tubal Cain, to use the product. The foundry closed finally in 1889 when operating expenses of 4775 exceeded the value of output by 1098.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Lal Lal Iron Mining Co.; Phoenix Foundry, Ballarat; Victoria Iron Company

People in Bright Sparcs - Hughes, Helen

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© 1988 Print Edition page 854, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher