At the turn of the twentieth century the demand for steel increased as railways and manufacturing industries expanded, and Australia’s first modern blast furnace went into production at Eskbank near Lithgow, NSW. In 1915 BHP opened a steelworks in Newcastle, fuelled by coke from local coal and processing iron ore mined in South Australia. Other steelworks opened at Port Kembla, New South Wales, in 1921 and Whyalla, South Australia, in 1938.
Australian steel production peaked at approximately 10 million tonnes in 1981. In recent times raw steel production has reduced to less than 5 million tonnes with further restructuring likely. The Australian steel industry of today is a more diverse sector employing over 100,000 Australians, mostly engaged in downstream activities such as the supply chain of 160 distribution and warehousing facilities, transport companies, roll formers, roof fixers, fabricators and steel intensive manufacturers supplying infrastructure projects, agricultural applications such as cattle panels and Australia's building industry.