Iron and Steel Industry

Iron ore when extracted needs two elements for further processing like limestone and coking coal. The other factors are water for cooling and energy needed for heating. Coal mines are usually located in the middle latitudes hence even iron industries developed there. The secondary industries too are located there as most would depend on iron or coalas raw materials. Tropical latitudes hardly have any significant coal fields and so little industrial development is seen there. 


Near Forests: Charcoal was used as an energy source for heating the furnaces. Thus iron ore factories were located near forests to ensure supply of wood.

Near Coal mines: Coal mines had the necessary labor available. Besides iron ore was found in coal seams.To get iron ore of 1 ton we needed 8-12 tons of coal were needed. Hence it was easier to transport iron ore to coal fields than coal to iron ore. 

Near Coastal regions: As iron and coal were depleted the need for imported coal and iron increased. This made factories to shift to newer areas in the coastal regions. The coastal factories depended on imported iron or coal and lowered cost of transportation from factory to port.

Iron ore and coal producing regions have a bi-directional relationship. The wagons that transported coal to iron ore regions would return empty so un-economical use. Hence the wagons would return with iron ore towards the coal producing regions. Thus in both these areas iron and coal industries flourished. E.g: Pittsburg-Lake Superior, Bokaro-Rourkela.



New technologies available for steel production reduced the pull factor of coalmines.


Open hearth system: Scrap steel could be used and this reduced dependency on mines. Even natural gas could now be used as fuel.


Oxygen converter process and electric smelters used less energy and now such mini-steel plants can be located away from mines and towards cities.

Integrated Steel plants are located in Eastern India and have a high gestation period. They are integrated complexes with the entire process from raw material processing to final conversion into alloys and steel products being done. Mini Steel Plants are located near cities and they recycle waste steel to produce finished products. They avoid competition with integrated steel plants by locating away from them.


Industrial Inertia

Earlier industries were located near to the coal mines but as mines depleted some have continued to remain in the same location. This is known as “Industrial inertia”.


  1. Labor is available abundantly and skilled in industrial areas. But if the industry moves to a newer location such labor might not be available.
  2. Rail, road and transportation facilities towards markets and ports are well developed in the industrial locations. The same facilities aren’t developed in newer locations and so it is more convenient to import raw materials and modernize operations.
  3. Government policy is also in favor of of big industrialists as they have a large work force. The industrialists lobby the policymakers to get suitable policies passed in their favor.
  4. Secondary industries don’t shift even when the primary industry might move. So the entrepreneurs are dissuaded from shifting their locations as it might affect their market base.

One important factor is strategic location of industries to prevent them from being attacked. This was followed by USA and USSR after the Second World War as both shifted industries towards more secure locations. India too used licensing to locate industries in backward areas as they might promote development.

Steel Industry in China

In China, the railways was in a nascent stage and couldn’t transport coal to the factories. Electricity too was a problem in China and so industries moved to location of coal mines i.e. North China.

Chinese steel industry was located at the North in Manchuria, Beijing and Wuhan province. China under Mao’s leadership wanted to transform into an industrialized economy from an agrarian economy. Mao ordered all communes to set up backyard furnaces and gave them high targets for steel production. However this experiment failed due to inadequate training provided to the producers. This meant that the steel produced was non uniform quality. The agro laborers were diverted to steel production and this meant that shortage of agro workers. Thus agriculture productivity declined and led to famines. Forests were cut for charcoal production and energy source for fuel so this created soil conservation problems.

Automobile Industry

Automobile industry needs the support of primary industries like ferrous and non ferrous industries and also spare parts. The production in an assembly line needs continuous supply of these and so automobile industry should be located in areas that are already established manufacturing locations.

Detroit became the car capital of the world because Pittsburgh steel industry and the Appalachian coal mines provide the necessary raw materials like steel and coal for energy supply. New York is a major hub and is a market for cars also Great lakes provide access to markets in Canada. Detroit has a long tradition of building machines and so industries to support automobile industry like electronics and spare parts have emerged there. Skilled labor too is available.

Toyota Nagoya region also saw a large shift in production from silk to automobiles. Silk demand was declining and many laborers moved towards automobiles and created abundant supply of laborers.Nagoya a port city facilitated exports and imports of raw materials. The market also was present in Nagoya. Japanese automobile industry developed by reverse engineering US manufactured cars.

Shipbuilding Industry

Shipbuilding industry needs the following physical factors viz. coastal area, deep navigable waters. Economic factors needed are capital, iron and steel industry, market and skilled engineering labor.

Japanese and German industries too have developed due to the same reasons viz, coastal areas / estuaries were present, Iron and steel industry located close or worked on imported iron. Demand for ships in national and international market. Mechanization was used or engineering workers were present. 

Questions for UPSC Mains

Explain the reasons for the growth of Iron and steel industry

Explain the reasons for the growth of Automobile industry

Explain the reasons for the growth of Shipbuilding industry

Explain the reasons for Industrial inertia