Saturday, December 31, 2005

Abandoned Iron Ore Pier

In 1954, a massive expansion was undertaken by the Pennsylvania Railroad to create a pier in Philidelphia to unload imported ore from Liberia, Labrador, Venezuela, and other countries. This pier, stretching 850-feet out into the Delaware River, had 4 enourmous ore unloaders constructed on it at the cost of $1 million each. Ore could be scooped out of ships at the rate of 5,400 tons an hour, then funneled onto twin conveyor belts that took it to an unloading building or four storage domes. The unloading building had twin tipples situated over two railroad tracks, where ore was dumped into railroad cars. From there, it would head either to steel mills in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or farther west to mills in Pittsburg and Johnstown, PA and Ohio.
Imported ore was used because northeastern steel mills found local sources of ore becoming scarce, and as trade became more globalized in the 20th century, imported ore was cheap enough to be a feasible source. Notably, imported ore, mined thousands of miles away, processed, put in a train to a port, transloaded to a ship to arrive in Philadephia, then transloaded back into a train, and taken all the way to mills in western Pennsylvania and Ohio, apparantely was cheaper than using Mesabi ore mined in Minnesota.
Undoubtaby, the disparity in price was stemmed primarily from the degree to which labor and resources could be exploited in countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Liberia, and others. Likely lacking in environmental laws and basic health and safety regulations, along with much lower wages and benefits, companies eagerly exploit the less-developed nations of the world in search of the greatest profit. This uneven trend of development, a key feature of a capatilist economy, is the impetus for the economic anarchy that causes centres of production to shift reckelessly and frequently around the globe.
The result is scenes like I present below, where millions, even billions, in infrastructure lies unused, and the lives of millions endure eroding standards of living. This pier was closed in the mid-nineties, not because the cost of imported ore became higher becuase of say, higher wages for foreign workers, but because these ever-decreasing wages made it unprofitable for existing U.S. steel mills to forge steel. Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, many mills completely closed throughout the United States, completely devastating areas like Bethlehem and Pittsburg, Pa, while many other mills drastically reduced workforces. US Steel, which was the largest corporation in the world in 1900, only produces as much steel now as it did then.
To blame this devastating change, where tens or hundreds of thousands workers in the U.S. lost jobs and pensions, upon "globalization", only clouds the real processes at hand. Globalization is obviously an advancement : the allocation of resources and production throughout the world can be better organized, since is not constrained by national limitations (A Mitton Steel mill in Kazahkstan is in an ideal location, on the Neva River, with nearby coal and iron ore deposits)
Under a system of economy ruled by private ownership of production, these inherant advantages of global economy become compromised.
Mitton Steel, the world's largest steel producer, owns many of the mills in the U.S. that this abandoned ore pier served. A look at thier worldwide, facilities, though, shows that the greatest expendatures for upgrading facilities are going to eastern Europe, Kazahkstan, and Mexico. Why? Primarily because of conditions listed formerly, namely, cost of labor and regulation. Although most Mitton Steel facilities are in Western Europe and the U.S., the higher wages, worker's rights, environmental regulation, and other benefits of these areas is a burden to profit, so production, in the specific case of Mitton Steel, is being shifted to the europeon low-wage havens of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania, along with the other worldwide facilities.
This pattern can be repeated in every single aspect of the world economy, as industries leave the more developed countries to join in the constant, destructive search for the most exploitable labor force. The wealthy of the richest nations, whose priveledge is now built upon parasitic financial dealings, can only respond to the contradictions in world economic production by slashing the wages and benefits of the working classes of North America and Europe. As a result, the mass suffering continues, and billions in infastructure lies unused, as shown below.

The are the storage domes for the ore, though I think now their being used for another commodity. Their really quite beautiful shapes.

These little engines were used to push ore cars under the tipple to be loaded.


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