The enormous production of steel has required the importation of large quantities of iron ore of pure quality from Spain, Algeria, and elsewhere, into this country, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States; and these supplies have contributed greatly to the reduction in the price of steel to which I have referred, and what is, perhaps, of equal importance, they have prevented the great fluctuations of price which formerly prevailed. In 1869 this trade was in its infancy, and almost confined to the importation of the Algerian ores of Mokta el Hadid into France, while in 1882 Bilbao alone exported 3,700,000 tons of hematite ores to various countries to which the exports from the south of Spain, Algeria, Elba, Greece, and other countries have to be added. Great Britain alone imported 3,000,000 tons of high class, including manganiferous iron ores last year.
It is questionable whether the mines of pure iron existing in Europe would long bear a drain so great and still increasing; but happily the question no longer presses for an answer, because the problem of obtaining first-class steel from inferior ores has been solved by the genius of our colleagues, Mr. Snelus and Messrs. Thomas and Gilchrist, and by the practical skill and indomitable resolution of Mr. Windsor Richards. It is no part of the duty of the Institute to assign to each of these gentlemen his precise share in the development of the basic process. Whatever those shares may be, I feel sure you will agree with your council as to the propriety of their having awarded a Bessemer medal to two of these gentlemen - Messrs. Snelus and Thomas - to Mr. Snelus as the first who made pure steel from impure iron in a Bessemer converter lined with basic materials; to Mr. Thomas, who solved the same problem independently, and so clearly demonstrated its practicability to Mr. Richards by the trials at Blaenavon, as to have led that gentleman to devote all his energies and the great resources of the Eston Works to the task of making it what it now is, a great commercial success.
All difficulties connected with the lining of the converter and in insuring a durability of the bottom, nearly, if not quite, equal to that in the acid process, appear now to have been successfully surmounted, and I am informed by Mr. Gilchrist that the present production of basic steel in this country and on the Continent is already at the rate of considerably more than 500,000 tons per annum, and that works are now in course of construction which will increase this quantity to more than a million tons.
Our members will have the opportunity of seeing the process at work during their visit to Middlesbrough, at the Eston Works of Messrs. Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., which are now producing 150,000 tons per annum of steel of the highest quality from the phosphoretic Cleveland ores; and also at the North-Eastern Steel Company's Works. I believe it is the intention of the latter company to make a pure, soft steel suitable for plates, for which, according to the testimony of Mons. Delafond, of Creuzot, and others, the basic steel is peculiarly suitable on account of its remarkable regularity. I shall have the pleasure of presenting to Mr. Snelus the medal which he has so well deserved.