Country Listing

Spain Table of Contents



Iron and Steel

Spain's steel industry was located in the north at Vizcaya, Cantabria, and Asturias, and in the south at Sagunto, near Valencia. Though the steel industry had had an important presence in Spain since the second half of the nineteenth century, it had expanded greatly during the boom years of the 1960s and the early 1970s. Production had gone from 1.9 million tons in 1960 to 11.1 million tons in 1975, making the country the fifth largest steel producer in Europe and the thirteenth largest in the world. By the late 1970s, however, a worldwide glut in steelmaking capacity and the domestic economic slump had led to a severe crisis in the industry. Thereafter, the Spanish steel industry experienced an extensive contraction, not only in production capacity, but also in the size of its labor force.

Despite a 50 percent drop in domestic steel consumption, production remained at about 13 million tons per year during the early 1980s, and it reached a high of 14 million tons in 1985. High production levels were maintained through extensive exports; the two largest steel producers, the state firm ENSIDESA, and the Basque company, Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, were among the nation's most important exporters after the large automobile companies. Both of these companies and most other steel companies operated with heavy losses, however.

Membership in the EC and in the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) committed Spain to cutting back its iron and steel output and to reducing its overall capacity. Steel output declined almost 16 percent in 1986, to 11.8 million tons, and it fell to a slightly lower level in 1987. The government's efforts at restructuring the steel industry continued during the later 1980s with the creation of Acenor, which consolidated the producers of special grades of steel and became Western Europe's sixth largest firm of this kind. The large blast furnaces at Sagunta were shut down, and the government, which already controlled ENSIDESA and Altos Hornos del Mediterraneo, both INI firms, took a 40 percent interest in Altos Hornos de Vizcaya.

Data as of December 1988