Norwegian iron ore

Discussion in 'Scandinavia' started by wendist, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. wendist

    wendist Junior Member

    I´m new to this board and happy to see that there is a section dedicated to Scandinavia here.

    I need help with a question regarding Norway. It wasn´t just Sweden that produced iron ore during the war, that was then shipped out of Narvik, but Norway had iron ore mines of its own. Production levels were a fair bit lower than Swedens but still significant.

    After the german invasion 1940 levels went down significantily, something like 50%, and stayed low for the rest of the war. I´m trying to figure out what happened but it´s not easy.

    I have looked for sabotage actions but found very little, instead i find stories of mines that were closed because they were not profitable to run and how the germans in january -42 closed the mines around Kirkenes because of lack of coal.

    It looks like neither the norwegians nor the germans took these mines very seriously which puzzles me a bit.

    It doesn´t help that when you put Norway and iron ore in a google-search, 98% of the results are about Narvik and swedish ore.

    Is there anybody here who knows anything more about this? Any british or norwegian operations aimed directly at the iron ore mines that you know of?
  2. wowtank

    wowtank Very Senior Member

    Hi wendist:) Welcome to ww2talk I am sure someone will help:)

    (off topic Norwegian Elkhounds are the best dogs ever)
  3. wendist

    wendist Junior Member

    Seven minutes for a first reply! :)
    You guys are fast!
    Thanks for the welcome! :)
  4. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    Hi OP - well, I've done a bit on this over the years on AHF, and here's my take on it.

    After the german invasion 1940 levels went down significantily, something like 50%, and stayed low for the rest of the war. I´m trying to figure out what happened but it´s not easy.

    First of all - one of the reasons why the Germans wouldn't have been too all-fired-up to get Norwegian production running 100% through the war would be the difficulties with getting it OUT of Norway!

    Quite suprisingly when I looked further at Narvik after the events of NEVER again reached anything like the heights of through-put export that it had prior to April 1940! :mellow: Not only did the British and French do a considerable amount of damage to the freighting infrastructure around Narvik - they blew up a vital railway bridge just outside the town, and ripped up track....but they also trashed the so-called "Iron Quay", the specialised overhead railhead built before the war that allowed ore cars to empty directly into ore ships moored alongside the quay.

    As well as that, of course - at least four, and I think possibly six ore freighters were sunk alongside the Iron Quay during First and Second Narvik, rendering it useless for loading ore even if they hadn't damaged it!!! I've no idea when....if!...these were ever salvaged - or even just dynamited to get them out of the way. You'd need a local historian or source for that detail.

    So it looks like after the events in and around Narvik in 1940....a far greater percentage of Swedish ore reached Germany direct from Sweden than it had previously! :D I know it's very unfasionable to look at it this way - but there's no denying from the Narvik "handling" figures that if the Allies went into the Narvik area to stop the Germans exporting Swedish ore via there...they did a suprisingly good job! :mellow:

    One of the other reasons for the decline you see is how Norway's "iron" exports were measured; pre-war we have the League of Nations' Yearbook totals for iron export...but they don't actually make it clear if this is TOTAL export I.E. whether it incudes BOTH Norwegian "domestic" ore being exported AND Swedish ore being exported via Norway ;) For the war years we have SOME figures, but nothing complete, or even measured to the same criteria :( Luckily however we do have the Narvik export figures for the war years from 1941 on to allow us to see how little was sent out through there compared to pre-1940.

    The next problem, for Norwegian "domestic" iron ore production, is that yes, there were iron mines in the Kirkenes-Petsamo area...but Norway's OTHER major iron ore deposits were in the Mo-i-Rana area, south of Bodo; these were the heart of Norway POST-war iron and steel industry....but before the war, the few decades' smallscale production had closed there...and there was nothing like the same rail infrastructure anyway for getting the ore there to the coast as there was for getting Swedish ore from Gallivare-Kiruna down to Narvik. The Mo-i-Rana field would have required a considerable capital spend during the war to get it up and producing; post-war the Norwegian government only did it because they'd come to view Norway not having it's own steel industry as a strategic weakness, and invested in the ore field at Mo-i-Rana as well as building steel production and rolling facilities there. They were also given two German blast furnaces from the Ruhr as reparations, around which to base their new industry - which became Norway's contribution to the "Scandanavian steel cartel" that made the region self-sufficient and fixed prices for the four-decade period from the start of the 1950s when Mo-i-Rana came online to the start of the 1990s.
  5. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I should have said - the 1945 debate into whether or not Norway should invest in a "national" steel industry contains quite a lot of material regarding the war years ;) if you contact the Storting Records Office in Oslo, they'll actually send you a photocopy of the minutes of the debate FOR FREE....Kew take note! :lol: Apparently it's part of their operating charter that they do so :D Nice people, the Norwegians!

    "All" you THEN have to do is try and translate it...:p
  6. wendist

    wendist Junior Member

    Hi Phylo, thanks for your reply.

    I should have mentioned in my first post that I understand norwegian fairly well, so your tip about the Storting Records Office is much appreciated.:)

    I have found some numbers on ore production from official norwegian statistics on line f.ex. here

    If I read them correctly there definitely was a significant reduction in ore production during the war. Whether the ore that was produced ever reached Germany or not I can´t say.

    When the germans closed down the mines at Kirkenes in early -42 it would indeed seem to have more to do with RAF and RN activity against german shipping rather than local sabotage.

    So far I have only found one document that describes sabotage operations in detail.

    It´s a dissertation on the SOE´s activities in Norway.

    It would appear that not much was done in the early years (1940-43) as it took SOE quite some time to get organised in Norway.

    I´m trying to find more information on local resistance groups such as Milorg and whether they performed any operations on their own.
  7. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

  8. 26delta

    26delta Senior Member

    Thanks, Phylo, for that insightful view of captured economies. I'm still trying to get my head around the difficulties of operating a war machine without Swedish ball bearings -- and that applies to both sides.
  9. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    I'm still trying to get my head around the difficulties of operating a war machine without Swedish ball bearings -- and that applies to both sides.

    ;) Neither side went without!

    Swedish ballbearings were flown to the UK three times a week by a series of aircraft during the war...BOAC started this route from Leuchars in Scotland to Stockholm in February 1941, with a number of Lockheed 14 aircraft, later changed to unarmed Mosquitos on the legendary "Ballbearing Run". In the British case - the issue was IIRC the size of ballbearings that British industry could produce, particularly very small ones for aviation applications, such as instruments.

    Meanwhile, after Schweinfurt was badly damaged, Speer attempted both to increase the amount of imports from Sweden - not overly successful at doing so IIRC - AND to do without ballbearings in as many applications as possible! Now...that of course sounds a bit odd - until you remember that even today there are for instance many automtive applications where turned bronze or sintered bronze bushings serve in place of ball races ;)

    In late 1943 the Allies managed to agree with the Swedes that they would stop the flow of ballbearings to Germany....but they FORGOT to negotiate on stopping the flow of ballbearing-quality steel to the Third Reich! :lol: So supplies of the raw material kept flowing to Germany's factories.

    One thing that's often forgotten about 1940 is that WE got a lot of Swedish iron ore via Narvik too! Three British-registered ore ships a week sailed form Narvik bound for British smelting plants in the North East; one of the immediate side effects of the Norwegian Campaign was that suddenly that supply stopped flowing...

    To an extent we got round the issue by expensively building "sinter beds" at East coast ironworks, to pre-roast domestic ore before smelting - and scraped through doing this and buying as many ballbearings from Sweden as we could get from them.

    The MAIN problem with trading with Sweden was, however more...."political" ;) When the Allies were being victorious, we had no problems getting new contracts accepted and filled, export quotas extended etc....but up until 1943, until the tide of war turned - it was the Germans who were enjoying these advantages! ;) And of course THEIR contracts were much larger - Swedish iron ore, castings and assemblies from Landsverk and others, ballbearings etc. Somewhere on the net there's an excellent university thesis regarding this, and tracing the wartime history of...ahem..."trading fluctuations" - which fluctuated almost with every individual victory won by one side or the other :p I came across it a few years ago by accident when researching Scandanavian exports to Germany during the First World War - but I didn't save the url :(
  10. wendist

    wendist Junior Member

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