Metallurgy is the largest key industry in the economy of Ukraine. Its importance is due to the fact that the machine building and metal-working industries depend on the production of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and that metal is the main source of engineering materials and an important export article.
The metallurgy sector includes 14 integrated steel making plants, 7 pipe plants, 10 plants producing metallic articles, 16 merchant-coke plants, 17 refractory production plants, 3 ferroalloy plants, 20 non-ferrous metallurgical works, 35 factories reprocessing ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal, and other enterprises.
Metallurgy in Ukraine has long history. In the 19th century, blast furnaces were in operation and cast iron was smelted in Donetsk and Luhansk. The main factors of development of metallurgy in Ukraine are the proximity of iron and manganese ore deposits, coking coal, and non-metallic materials – limestone, molding sand, and refractory clay. In addition, the dense transport network makes for efficient delivery of raw materials and goods to the plants. There is also a developed system of training the workforce, and a presence of reliable consumer – the machine building industry and other industries that consume large quantities of metal.
The main raw material for ferrous metallurgy is iron ore. Ukraine is completely self-sufficient in iron ore, coke, manganese, and various supplementary materials. Kryvy Rih basin is the source of most iron ore (about 90%). It is the world’s largest area of iron ore extraction. From there, iron ore is shipped not only to Ukrainian plants, but also to the countries of Western and Eastern Europe.
The total iron ore deposits in Ukraine (categories A, B and C) amount to 27 billion tons. The main area of manganese ore extraction is the Transdnipro manganese-ore basin, an area with unique deposit contents. Both the manganese ore from Transdnipro and Chasiv Yar deposit of refractory clay are well known far beyond Ukraine’s borders. The unique proximity of all the raw materials necessary for the metallurgy industry to each other is the cause of the economic prevalence of the Ukrainian metallurgy industry in the national economy and its significance for the economies of other European countries. Ukraine had been the metallurgy workshop of the former USSR; it used to be the second in the world in steel production, and the fourth in cast iron smelting. In steel production per capita (1059 kg), Ukraine used to be the first in the world. Most of the facilities of the industry are engaged in production of ferrous metals (over 44%) and extraction and enrichment of crude ore (over 30%). The third largest subsector
in terms of production assets involved is the by-product-coking industry. There are four iron-ore basins in Ukraine: Kryvy Rih, Kremenchuk, Bilozerske and Kerch basins. There are two manganese ore basins, one in Nikopol and the other in Velyky Tokmak. In addition, there are several non-metallic raw material deposits: fluxing limestone (Donbas, Transdnipro, Crimea), dolomites, and refractory clays.
The vast majority of metallurgy enterprises of Ukraine are powerful integrated companies that produce over five million tons of metal per year. The largest of them are Azovstal, Zaporizhstal, and Kryvorizhstal. Three metallurgical regions have developed in Ukraine: Transdnipro, Donetsk, and Transazov.
Non-ferrous metallurgy includes ore extraction and enrichment, non-ferrous metal production, and secondary raw material processing. Most prominent in the non-ferrous metallurgy industry is aluminum production, using bauxites, alunites, etc. as raw materials. The availability of resources and the rising needs encourage creation of a large aluminum industry in Ukraine.
Two large aluminum and titanium-magnesium plants are situated in Zaporizhia. The aluminum plant gets its raw materials from Mykolayiv alumina plant, and the titanium-magnesium plant – from Irzhansk.
Verkhniodniprovsky mining-and-smelting integrated works manufactures zirconium and titanium articles exported to dozens of countries.
The production of magnesium uses the salts of Sivash Gulf. Mykytivka mercury deposit (Donetsk Oblast) is the main production source of this metal. The lead-zinc industry is well developed too – zinc is smelted in Kostiantynivka (Donetsk Oblast).
Secondary metal enterprises also belong to non-ferrous metallurgy: the hard alloy works (Torez), the rolled brass and copper mill (Artemivsk), pure metal works, etc.
In the future a production of superconducting materials, hard alloys, pure metals, etc. is expected to develop fast.