The three basic ingredients in making steel are coal, iron ore and limestone.


The first step in making iron was converting the coal into coke at the Coke Ovens.


Steel was made in the Open Hearth in six 175 ton tilting furnaces.



Chronology of the Sydney Steel Making

1880 1880 Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co., (Scotia) builds a steel plant at New
1893 1893 Scotia acquires the Wabana Iron Ore Mines (NFLD).
1899 1899 Henry Melville Whitney led consortium incorporates the Dominion
Iron & Steel Co. (Disco).
1900 1900 Construction of the Scotia Steel Plant begins at Sydney Mines, a
basic iron and steel producer, (coke ovens, blast furnace, and open hearth), to supply the finishing mills at New Glasgow. At the same time, construction of Disco begins at Sydney, also a basic iron and steel producer. Eventually it will include finishing operations consisting of a blooming mill, billet mill, rail mill, rod mill, bar mill, wire mill, nail mill and plate mill. Both plants will equally share the Wabana ore resource.
1901 1901 First steel produced at Sydney on December 31st.
1902 1902 First steel produced at Sydney Mines.
1903 1903 Strike at Disco with wages being the main concern. Disco puts down strike action. This year was the beginning of the boom and bust cycles that characterized the lifespan of both steel plants.
1912 1912 Disco expands with the addition of another blast furnace and two
500 ton mixer furnaces.
1914 The first part of the Great War (1914-1918) is a boom time that sees both plants at maximum operation feeding the war steel demands. Disco constructs a plate mill but the end of the war reduces steel demands and the plate mill is mothballed.
1920 1920 British Empire Steel & Coal Co., (Besco) purchases all assets of the Disco and Scotia operations.
1921 1921 Both plants are in a bust cycle and an undercapitalized Besco closes the Sydney Mines Steel Plant. The Sydney operation will supply the car and axle shops at New Glasgow. The Great Depression strikes Cape Breton eight years before the rest of the world and Besco struggles financially.
1922 1922 Hours and wages are cut resulting in violent strikes and walk-outs. The Canadian Military had to be called in to act as peacemakers. Workers were forced to work at gunpoint.
1927 1927 Besco collapses and goes into bankruptcy.
1928 Dominion Steel & Coal Corporation, (Dosco) is formed. This is part of a large British conglomerate that takes over all of Besco’s assets. Also, the federal government grants Maritime freight rate subsidies.
1931 1931 The Mackie Retarded Coolant Process is implemented. This gives
Dosco an advantage over other rail producers and allows the Sydney Plant to produce the world’s finest rail. Dosco holds the patent through the Mackie family. A completely integrated hospital is opened on Dosco property. It consists of an outpatient treatment unit with an inpatient ward and a modern operating room. Doctors are on site along with a live-in nursing staff. Time missed for medical reasons is drastically reduced. A side benefit is a significant reduction in compensation payments.
1938 1938 Steelworkers are allowed to conduct a vote on steel plant property for the first time. The result is the formation of Local 1064, United Steelworkers of America.
1939 1939 The second half of The Great War (1939-1945) leads to a boom period that lasts for the next 20 years. Women are hired to replace steelworkers lost to military service.
1940 The first contract is signed between the Union and Company. #2 Open Hearth Shop begins operation with two 200 ton tilting furnaces and will eventually expand to six furnaces.
1941 1941 German submarines sink four ships carrying Dosco ore. Seventy lives are lost.
Dosco purchases three surplus ships from the Federal Government mainly to transport iron ore from Wabana to Sydney. These ships operate for the next 22 years.
1947 1947 Strike. At this time Dosco negotiated as part of the Big Three- Stelco, Algoma, and Dosco. This strike marked the end of this parity relationship.
1953 1953 A new coke ovens battery goes into operation.
1957 1957 A.V. Roe Canada (Hawker Siddeley), takes control of the plant. over the next 10 years, the steel plant is sacked. Closures include the wire mill, nail mill, rod mill, and bar mill.
1966 1966 New dock unloaders are constructed and they proved to be very efficient. This is the only positive thing Hawker Siddeley did.
1967 1967 Black Friday. Hawker Siddeley announces the closure of the steel plant. By now only 2780 are employed as opposed to 5200 ten years earlier. A massive parade of concern by the community convinces provincial government to take over the plant.
1968 1968 The steel plant becomes a crown corporation and is now known as The Sydney Steel Corporation, (Sysco).
1969 1969 Sysco produces over 1 million tons of steel for the first time in history. They also show a profit and the employees receive a first and only time bonus.
1970 1970 A 92 million dollar modernization begins. It includes a modern rail finishing mill and a continuous caster.
1972 Strike. Wages are the main issue.
1973 Steel plant is back into a bust cycle. A steel loader is constructed at the docks.
1975 1975 The continuous caster is commissioned.
1980 1980 The operation of the continuous caster is discontinued.
1981 1981 Another modernization begins in two phases and will total 92 million dollars. Phase one includes a new blast furnace.
1982 1982 Strike. Workers leave the job prematurely not knowing the bad shape Sysco is in. 3300 walk out. Only 1200 return.
1987 1987 Second phase of modernization begins. The plant will become a mini-mill with an electric arc furnace feeding a bloom caster and a universal rolling mill.
1988 1988 Coke ovens closes.
1989 1989 Blast furnace and open hearth shut down.
1990 1990 Provincial Government writes off 785 million dollars of debt. Say plant must show a profit to continue operating and seek a buyer.
1993 1993 MinMetals of China agree to purchase steel plant after operating it
as a joint venture with the Government for 3 years.
1995 Maximum employment is now only 600. Steel production is good but, 203 million more in debt accumulates.
1996 1996 MinMetals withdraws from its agreement with the Government.
1997 1997 Government seeks another buyer.
2000 2000 On May 22nd, the last steel is produced. With no legitimate
purchaser for the plant, the Nova Scotia Government soon closes Sysco permanently.


Website designed by Carole Lee Boutilier
Pictures compliments of Ray Martheleur
Last updated February 1, 2006