Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Discussions on the economic history of the nations taking part in WW2, from the recovery after the depression until the economy at war.
Graeme Sydney
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Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Graeme Sydney » 31 Mar 2010 23:53

What was so valuable about Swedish iron ore? Was it the only iron ore available to Germany? Or was it the volume or easy availability/cheapness or a particular quality?

Jon G.
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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Jon G. » 31 Mar 2010 23:55

Low sulphur content. Domestic German iron ore was very inferior in quality in comparison.

There is more to it, but I need to dig out some books before I can give a more detailed answer.

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Graeme Sydney » 01 Apr 2010 09:19

So, if no other ore of similar quality was available the Swedish ore was essential to Germany's war industries.

It would have been the same in WW1 was it?

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Jon G. » 01 Apr 2010 11:40

Swedish iron ore was definitely important to the German war economy, though just how important remains a matter of debate.

From a July 1940 article by C. R. Crone in The Geographical Journal

Image

I have no idea if Crone's figures are correct.

...and here's a tidbit from the FDR archives:
Total shipments of Swedish iron ore to GERMANY during 1941 were
9,554,734 tons (of which 738,255 tons via NARVIE) compared with
a total of 9,172,807 tons (473,312 tons via NARVIK) during 1940.
Exports in December totaled 569,000 tons, of which 24,000 were
shipped via NARVIK. This is 409,000 tons less than shipments
in December, 1940. The Germans are said to be pressing for in-creased
deliveries to NARVIK. clicky

Graeme Sydney
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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Graeme Sydney » 01 Apr 2010 12:23

Thanks Jon. Interesting.........

Two things;
1/only 10-15% came out through Narvik (mostly in winter I would guess, Narvik being an ice free port). Hardly reason to invade Norway in '40.

2/ High yield ore and maybe other quality issues which probably made Swedish iron ore desirable rather than essential.

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 01 Apr 2010 15:43

Two things;
1/only 10-15% came out through Narvik (mostly in winter I would guess, Narvik being an ice free port). Hardly reason to invade Norway in '40.

2/ High yield ore and maybe other quality issues which probably made Swedish iron ore desirable rather than essential.
Graeme....there were other factors at work.

1/ BRITAIN imported Swedish ore via Narvik TOO! 8O the east coast iron and steel works in the UK were set up to use the low-sulphur ore. IIRC when the resource terminated by circumstances, they had to install sinter beds to preprocess domestic ore (pre-roast the sulphur out of it!), adding both an initial capital cost AND an extra cost to the regular production of finished steel.

2. At various times through late 1939 and into 1940 the British...and French, both separately then together...viewed the Narvik operation as a part of (in varying proprtions and importance) a greater operation, an action involving crossing the border and seizing the Gallivare ore fields - then possibly moving on into Northern Finland to assist the Finns against the USSR, viewed at that time (late 1939) as "Germany's ally".

3. with the end of the Winter War, this element of the plan evaporated...but by then other factors were appearing; the likely length of the war, failed attempts to request the Norwegians stop facilitating the trade with Germany, the slowness (failure? :wink: ) of the WWI Quota System restricting German imports via third-party Neutrals to be put in place again, and the increasing losses among British ore carriers to uboats just outside the Norwegian limit.
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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Jon G. » 01 Apr 2010 18:36

Graeme Sydney wrote:Thanks Jon. Interesting.........
You are welcome. I have developed a certain fondness for these raw material-centered threads...

1/only 10-15% came out through Narvik (mostly in winter I would guess, Narvik being an ice free port). Hardly reason to invade Norway in '40.
True, although the non-availability of Narvik for ore exports would have made Swedish exports to Germany more seasonal in nature. As I understand it, most Swedish ore exports left the country via Luleå, which is in Sweden proper and somewhat closer to the Swedish ore fields. But Luleå is (or was) frozen up in winter, so during the cold season ore went out via the Swedish ore railroad to Narvik.
2/ High yield ore and maybe other quality issues which probably made Swedish iron ore desirable rather than essential.
I am not sure to which degree Swedish ore's qualities could be substituted by lower grade ores (perhaps by processing it more?), or by using scrap metal. When Swedish deliveries eventually stopped in the autumn of 1944, the German war machine didn't stop dead in its tracks immediately, but then there must have been some ore left in the pipelines, so perhaps the effect would have been felt by spring 1945.

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 01 Apr 2010 20:51

I am not sure to which degree Swedish ore's qualities could be substituted by lower grade ores (perhaps by processing it more?), or by using scrap metal.
Jon, if you remember discussion of using scrap steel to produce high-grade tool steel etc. arose in another thread on Narvik. AFAIK the recovery of scrap steel into high-grade steel in quantity required an electric furnace...so though there might indeed be considerable amounts of scrap in a nation the size of Germany...the furnaces to process it might be an issue. Like England's new sinter beds...these would need to be constructed at a capital cost to the Third Reich unless there was a pre-existing side of the industry doing this in bulk...?.
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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Jon G. » 01 Apr 2010 21:52

Well, it emerged from this discussion... http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 6&t=150716

...that Germany apparently had plentiful sintering facilities, at least post war.

It would be interesting to know which shape Swedish ore for the German market had. From the other thread, it appears that German customers preferred iron concentrate (in granulate form), whereas the British market wanted its iron in briquette form - at least from the Norwegian Kirkenes mine and iron works.

It would appear that the German steel industry, relying to a large degree on imports, had sufficient capacity to handle iron in whatever shape it arrived. As a comparison of sorts, the Japanese imported much of their iron as scrap, and were very skilled at exploiting it.

Still AFAIUI, the main bottleneck for the German war economy insofar as steel is concerned was coking coal, which is necessary for steel making. Germany had coal in abundance, but not all of it was suitable for coking (for example, most Silesian coal was apparently useless for that purpose); after all the Germans were perfectly willing to sink enormous amounts of money and ressources into industries which, in a free market, would have been totally uncompetitive, such as synthfuel, synthetic rubber and of course low-grade ore extraction...

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by phylo_roadking » 01 Apr 2010 22:04

...that Germany apparently had plentiful sintering facilities, at least post war.
I wonder what percentage were constructed during the war, to exploit domestic ore? :wink:
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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by John T » 01 Apr 2010 22:48

Graeme Sydney wrote:So, if no other ore of similar quality was available the Swedish ore was essential to Germany's war industries.
LOTS of number can be found here :
http://www.ordersofbattle.darkscape.net ... lCoal.html

And before the fall of France Sweden where expected to supply half of Germany's iron ore demand.
This is the important part given the decisions made in 1940 regarding Swedish Iron ore(from all sides)
As there is an abundance of evidence on both sides that Swedish iron ore where seen as war winning before the fall of France.

My personal idea is that the Allies expressed that the port of Narvik in itself where the key.
Possibly post rationalisation as they understood they never could get to the source, the ore fields them self.
while the Germans saw Narvik only as an entry point.
Graeme Sydney wrote:

It would have been the same in WW1 was it?
Yes, during WW1 Sweden and the US had a similar positional change regarding their trade partners.
Allied investments in the US 1914 where as a percentage lower than German (and allied) in Sweden.
And as inflation soared during the war Sweden could sell goods produced by plants built before the war with foreign capital at a much higher price than calculated in the investment appraisal. So mortgages where paid by products at much faster rate than expected before the war.
The Swedes ended WW1 much less indebted than in 1914 while US ended the war as a major creditor
(with very limited securities).

cheers
/John T.

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by John T » 01 Apr 2010 23:04

Jon G. wrote:

1/only 10-15% came out through Narvik (mostly in winter I would guess, Narvik being an ice free port). Hardly reason to invade Norway in '40.
... <Snip what I agree with>
As I understand it, most Swedish ore exports left the country via Luleå, which is in Sweden proper and somewhat closer to the Swedish ore fields. But Luleå is (or was) frozen up in winter, so during the cold season ore went out via the Swedish ore railroad to Narvik.
Actualy the other way round in peace time, > 50% trough Narvik.
Germany's infrastructure where based on the Rhine, transshipment from ocean going vessels in Rotterdam to river barges and sent up the river. So Both Spanish and Swedish Iron ore entered Germany the same route.

Jon G. wrote:
2/ High yield ore and maybe other quality issues which probably made Swedish iron ore desirable rather than essential.
I am not sure to which degree Swedish ore's qualities could be substituted by lower grade ores (perhaps by processing it more?), or by using scrap metal. When Swedish deliveries eventually stopped in the autumn of 1944, the German war machine didn't stop dead in its tracks immediately, but then there must have been some ore left in the pipelines, so perhaps the effect would have been felt by spring 1945.
After the fall of France, the major advantage of Swedish ore where that it was resource effective, half the quantity of coal to melt it, half the demand on transportation and manpower, Plus that Swedish shipping and manpower where used for the Iron ore also reducing the strain on the Reich. And still around a quarter of all German Iron production.
According to Fritz, Martin. German Steel and Swedish Iron Ore 1939-1945; Göteborg, 1974

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John T

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by Graeme Sydney » 02 Apr 2010 02:44

John T wrote: Plus that Swedish shipping and manpower where used for the Iron ore also reducing the strain on the Reich.
That's nice, but how did the Germany pay for it; French, Dutch and Polish gold?

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by John T » 02 Apr 2010 09:34

Graeme Sydney wrote:
John T wrote: Plus that Swedish shipping and manpower where used for the Iron ore also reducing the strain on the Reich.
That's nice, but how did the Germany pay for it; French, Dutch and Polish gold?
You can't eat gold and Sweden's own production was sufficient for industrial needs.
I am not Ironical, the very few (IIRC two) gold transactions where met with strong objections within the administration.

Germany had a large trade with Sweden in peacetime too, so a lot could just continue as pre war.
and they sold some arms to massive profit, a couple of hundred 105mm guns, ammo and so on.

But Sweden did not reject goods just because they where from occupied territories.
So Polish coal where among the largest quantities.


Cheers
/John

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Re: Swedish Iron Ore and Narvik

Post by takata_1940 » 03 Apr 2010 01:25

Hi,
About Swedish Iron Ore, I've got a French study made on 15 Jan 1940 entitled "Note on Economic warfare". It is listing the main German raw materials shortages and to what measure the blockade may be effective to cut off Germany from possible sources of supply. At the top of the list are the Swedish Iron ore and Russian Petroleum but the main difficulty for the study was first to assess correctly the level of German pre-war stocks (beside war consumption about which only rough estimate could be made).

this is the cover page (this copy was sent to the French Naval Attaché in Washington):
400115_Eco0.jpg
translation:
The present study was made to answer the following questions:
1.) given the low intensity of actual operation, would economical factors by themselves be enough to push Germany out of the war? - if so, after what delay?
2.) what would be the consequences, about the duration of the war, if the following German importations were stopped:
a) Swedish Iron ore -
b) Caucasus Petroleum.

Considering the first case, the German stock of Iron ore was estimated at 20 million tons at the outbreak of war - another figure of 10 million tons stocked was given by Fritz Tyssen during a meeting in Swizerland (information judged doubtful). Consumption was estimated at 34 million tons pre-war. German production was estimated at 15 million tons and importations at 10 million tons from Sweden plus 1.55 million tons from Belgium/Holland. Hence, if Germany was cut off from its importations, the production would cover only 44% of the pre-war needs. The 20 million tons stocked would be exhausted - at the same consumption rate - in about one year after the Swedish supply was stopped. But, if the stock was really 10 million tons, the Iron Ore crisis would come much faster:
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Last edited by takata_1940 on 03 Apr 2010 01:41, edited 1 time in total.

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