This area shows how the potential offered by the river estuary and the exploitation of the nearby mines in the late 19th century turned this into a modern, industrial area.
The large deposits of iron ore found locally had been mined for centuries. But it was in the second half of the 19th century, with the invention in Britain of the Bessemer converter, that mining as an industry really took off. The Bessemer process produced cheaper, better quality steel but required ore that did not contain phosphorous. Such ore was plentiful in Bizkaia, especially in the Triano-Somorrostro mining area. The port of Bilbao was adapted to enable larger vessels to enter it and load up, the infrastructures required to transport iron ore were built and large-scale exports to the rest of Europe began. Basque shipping concerns, and those based in Bilbao in particular, topped the Spanish merchant marine rankings in terms of the number of companies, the number of vessels and their gross tonnage. Views of the river came to be dominated by vessels of all types, with large ships laden with raw materials and manufactured goods, and by factories and smoke-stacks.
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