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Norway was in trouble! During the latter half of the 19th century, most countries in Europe underwent a major industrialization. The industry needed people, the cities grew, and it became more and more common to build with concrete. International trade created more need for shipping, and shipping shifted from sailing ships to steam engines and steel keels. Norway was still in union with Sweden, and we lacked both capital and technology for steel production. Imports of steel were expensive, and European nations prioritized domestic consumption. The shortage of iron and steel was so great and serious that in newspapers and in the Storting it was referred to as the "iron case".

Mo i Rana, iror ore, jernmalm, Montebello

The steamship Montebello ca 1890. - Digital Museum

The history of iron

The art of making iron is old, but the properties of iron were discovered long before. Traces have been found that in the early Sumer civilization of present-day Iraq, iron was used from meteorites to spearheads and jewelry as early as 4000 BC (BC). The Egyptians valued 2000 years BC iron to be eight times more valuable than gold.

The knowledge of producing iron from ore came much later, but in the same area. The oldest tools of wrought iron have been found in Armenia, from around 1500 - 1300 BC, and from here the knowledge spread to the Middle East and Europe. Around 1000 BC, the art of making steel from iron has been improved, and wrought iron is commonly used for weapons. Before that time, bronze was the norm.

The oldest traces of iron in Norway are from about 1000 BC, but the production of iron only appears 500 - 600 years later, probably through migration south and east. In the Nordic countries, iron was produced from ferrous bog ore, and when we entered the Viking Age around the year 800, the production of iron had become common and the blacksmith had become an important and recognized professional. The Vikings' sharp swords and daggers were feared. Some swords were so respected that they got names and are mentioned in the sagas.

Around 1750, a new era for iron began when England learned to replace charcoal with coke from the coal mines. Towards 1800, this method developed, and it quickly spread to the rest of the world. In the countries where coal mines were available and coke could thus be made, permanent coke-fired blast furnaces were built. The production of iron and steel quickly multiplied, while the quality of the steel improved.

In Norway, iron was still made from charcoal, and the method had no chance against iron from Europe. In the years 1850 - 1870, all but one of the Norwegian ironworks had to give up. This put Norway in a very unfortunate position, as we, unlike other countries, were no longer self-sufficient. The old ironworks were largely replaced by iron foundries where wood stoves were an important product.

Industrialization in Norway was much slower than in other countries, and it took place mainly around the Oslo Fjord. In the north, Mostadmarkens Jernverk had a little north of Trondheim, acquired the ore rights in Dunderlandsdalen already in 1799, but distances and terrain made extraction difficult. Instead, the country's richest iron ore was sourced from Ormlia by Langvatnet in Rana.  


Norway still had a Swedish king, and the Swedish consul Nils Persson and geologist Alfred Hasselbom had after the closure in Mostadmarken taken care of the rights in Dunderlandsdalen. In 1899, they also acquired the rights to build a preparation plant by the Ranfjord, and to build a railway between the ore rivers and Mo. It was these plans that became known far beyond the country's borders.


But as mentioned in the case of Thomas Edison , industrialization came to Rana right after the turn of the century. The rights to the ore and railway were sold to the English company DIOC in 1902 for an astronomical 182,000 British pounds. In a note to the future shareholders, the ore resources were described as large enough to supply the United Kingdom with iron ore for more than a hundred years. DIOC was thus financed to become the UK's largest importer of iron ore.


But for Norway this did not provide a good and lasting solution, because even with Norwegian ore, iron and steel had to be bought back from England.

Mo i Rana, Dunderland, industri, historie

DIOC, Dunderland Iron Ore Company, initiated industrial travel in Mo i Rana from 1905

Norway became an independent nation in 1905, and King Haakon was appointed the country's king. One of the most precarious and demanding tasks for the king and the country's government was to get Norway out of the shadows of Europe's industrial nations. For this, independent production of iron and steel was important.

The prices of steel were high at the dissolution of the union, but when the industrial nations in Europe a few years later began a major military rearmament, steel prices rose many times over. A number of Norwegian engineers, industry owners and politicians put forward many proposals for solutions, but the lack of capital and expertise stood in the way of the decisions.

During the First World War between 1914 and 1918, Norway remained neutral, but the war was a disaster for the country, especially for shipping, which experienced constant declines in the high seas.

Mo i Rana,jern, krig, Consul Persson, ubåt

The Norwegian steamship Consul Pehrson loaded with ore to England was sunk by German submarines

In the aftermath of the First World War, steel prices in Europe collapsed, falling back to a level that did not make Norwegian steel production profitable. The iron case was thus set aside for more precarious tasks for the young nation.


Not many years later, the technology developed in a favorable direction for Norway. Throughout the 1920s The old production method of iron in coal-fired blast furnaces faced competition from iron produced by electricity.


When a new arms race began in Europe in the 1930s, steel prices rose again, and in Norway the iron issue became relevant again. A number of studies and proposals were debated, and finally the Storting appointed the so-called Iron Committee. The committee presented its recommendation to the Storting in the late autumn of 1939, and it pointed out, among other things, the iron ore and the hydropower potential in Mo i Rana. 

But then there was another war ...

Krig, 1940, historie, Hitler, Goebells, Terboven

Leading Nazis in the Storting, including Goebbels and Terboven, November 1940

After the liberation in 1945, a coalition government and a joint program were quickly put together. Several of the members had been in England during the war and had prepared for the reconstruction. The coalition government determined almost immediately that "the iron case should be solved!"

The Iron Committee's recommendation from the autumn of 1939 was presented to the Storting after the election in 1946. During the Storting's deliberations, Minister of Trade Lars Evensen described the new ironworks as «… the largest industrial one-off lift our country has taken». On the evening of July 10, 1946, the historic decision was made: A state-owned ironworks was to be built in Mo i Rana.

Jernsaken, Norsk Jernverk, Lars Evensen, Mo i Rana

Minister of Trade Lars Evensen described the decision to establish an ironworks in Mo i Rana as  

«… The biggest industrial one-off lift our country has taken»

Within a few months, the work of building an ironworks began, and after that time a modern ironworks was to be established. In parallel, a major development of hydropower was initiated in the municipalities of Rana and Hemnes.

The development was demanding, and it would take a full nine years from the Storting's decision until the first iron was produced. During these years, the European steel industry had undergone a rapid development, and the iron and steel plant in Mo i Rana was no longer modern and productive. The production capacity in Europe in these years was far greater than the need, and even with cheap hydropower, people in Mo i Rana did not manage to produce as cheaply as they did in Sweden, Germany and England.  

The small charging station Mo i Rana had nevertheless been through a colossal growth. Homes and blocks of flats had been built for thousands of new residents, and skilled shopkeepers had set up shop. Norway's very first supermarket was established by LA Meyer, and the cooperative responded by building one that was just as large. During the 60s and 70s, the city gained a greater degree of modernity, and period elements such as pedestrian streets and traffic lights were established.

Jernverk, Mo i Rana, boliger, Stjerneblokkene, Giga Factory

The star blocks were set up for ironworks workers in the 50s

The competition from the European steel industry led to a stronger need for a restructuring of the cornerstone companies in Mo i Rana throughout the 1980s. In 1989, the Storting decided that the production of pig iron and steel from ore should cease, and the part of the steelworks that was based on remelting sharp was sold. At the same time, the state-owned coking plant was closed down.

The restructuring of Mo i Rana was a success, and it is mentioned in a number of reports. The restructuring showed that the combination of will, courage and relevant financing is a good recipe. The constant supply of new and young expertise has changed Mo i Rana to be a leading technology city. More steel is being produced than ever before in the old ironworks, and in addition, ferrosilicon and manganese are being produced, all based on sustainable and renewable energy.

Today, Mo i Rana is the fourth largest city in the Trøndelag / Northern Norway region. Only Trondheim, Tromsø and Bodø have higher population numbers. Rana municipality has 26,000 inhabitants, and most live in or near the city center. The city is without a doubt one of the most potent areas in the country.

Curious to know more? Check out these links:

Mo Industrial Park

Vacancies in Mo i Rana

Rana Development Company

Helgeland Campus

Candidate Helgeland

Kunnskapsparken Helgeland

Mo i Rana, current vacancies, ledig stilling
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