Bethlehem Mines Corp.
Bethlehem Steel’s mining operations constituted a major part of its steelmaking empire. By being able to mine their own coal, iron, limestone, and other raw materials, Bethlehem could significantly reduce costs and increase efficiency in their steelmaking process. While the exact process of steelmaking changed over time, the raw materials needed to produce steel stayed stable. Iron and a small amount of carbon are combined to create the much stronger steel. However, this process can produce impurities, which need to be removed. Flux, often in the form of limestone, was utilized in smelting to reduce impurities.
Bethlehem Mines started as a part of the larger Bethlehem Steel Corporation, with its administrative offices located in Johnstown, Pa. In 1905, one year after incorporation, Bethlehem only owned two raw materials properties, the McAfee Limestone Quarry in New Jersey and the Juragua Iron Mines in Cuba. However, this number rapidly increased.
As Bethlehem Steel itself grew, so did its need for these materials. Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky were hotbeds for bituminous coal, and Bethlehem Steel eventually had multiple mines in each area. Later, Bethlehem utilized the harder, cleaner burning anthracite coal from Eastern Pennsylvania, acquiring mines in the Panther Valley region south of the Poconos.
Iron ore needed to be acquired farther from the corporate headquarters. In the United States, most iron ore was acquired in the midwest in areas such as the Mesabi Range in Minnesota and southern Canada, and nearby states such as Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. However, Bethlehem also owned or operated mines in Central and South America. Cuba was additional source of iron ore, and the Mayari mines near Nipe Bay became a trademark for Bethlehem Steel, as it was used to produce a chrome alloy called Mayari-R as a weathering steel.
As Bethlehem acquired other companies, they would also acquire their mines. In 1916, Bethlehem acquired the Pennsylvania Steel Company and its subsidiary, the Maryland Steel Company; this acquisition included ore properties in Cuba, as well as Bethlehem’s first coal mines at Cornwall Ore Mines in Cornwall, Pa. and Penn-Mary Coal Company mines at Heilwood, Pa. Other major acquisitions at this time included, Lackawanna Steel Company and its leaseholds (1917), the Finch Run Coal Company (1920), the Union Coal & Coke Company (1923), and the Lackawanna Coal & Coke Company (1922).
In 1917, the Bethlehem Mines Corporation was established to own and operate Bethlehem’s limestone quarries. Three years later this would additionally include the operations for Bethlehem’s coal and iron mines as well.
In 1936, Bethlehem Mines Corporation established a new subsidiary called the Industrial Collieries Corporation. Industrial Collieries’ holdings included the Ellsworth Division (Ellsworth and Marianna, Pa.), the Johnstown Division (Johnstown and Slickville, Pa.), the Marion Division (Barrackville, W.Va.), the Preston Division (Morgantown and Kingwood, W.Va.) and the Heilwood Division (Heilwood, Pa.).
In 1968, the headquarters of the Bethlehem Mines Corporation moved from Johnstown, Pa. to the company’s headquarters in Bethlehem, Pa. In 1984, Bethlehem formed BethEnergy which manages its coal properties. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Bethlehem slowly divested itself of many of its properties in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. 1994 marked the last of the operations in Pennsylvania, and, finally, in 1997 its last mine in West Virginia was closed, marking the last of the corporation’s non-steel business. In 2001, Bethlehem Steel Corporation declared bankruptcy and was dissolved in 2003.