Sydney Steel

SYDNEY STEEL CORP 

1901-1999

PROBABLY NO COMPANY HAS HAD A GREATER INFLUENCE OVER CAPE BRETON INDUSTRY THAN SYDNEY STEEL & ITS PREDECESSORS. 

INITIALLY FORMED AS DISCO (DOMINION IRON & STEEL COMPANY) IN 1901 IN WHITNEY PIER BY AMERICAN INTERESTS, LED BY HENRY M. WHITNEY. WHEN IT OPENED IN 1901, IT WAS THE MOST MODERN STEEL PLANT IN THE WORLD.  THE COMPANY AND ITS COAL MINES WERE SOLD TO BESCO OF THE UK IN 1920.

STEELMAKING WAS ALWAYS A TOUGH BUSINESS, AND CAPE BRETON COAL HAD A VERY HIGH SULFUR CONTENT.  AS A RESULT THE IRON ORE THEY WERE USING WAS A VERY LOW QUALITY AND THE PLANT STRUGGLED WITH THE QUALITY OF ITS STEEL OUTPUT.  THE ENVIRONMENTAL SIDE EFFECTS THAT ACCOMPANIED THEIR PROCESSES MADE SYDNEY STEEL’S LANDS SOME OF THE MOST TOXIC IN NORTH AMERICA.

WHEN THE THREAT OF CLOSURE LOOMED IN THE EARLY 1960’S A ROYAL COMMISSION WAS STRUCK AND THE STEEL PLANT WAS NATIONALIZED IN 1967 BY THE PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA.

WHAT WAS TO BE A ONE YEAR WIND DOWN IN 1967, TURNED INTO 33 YEARS AND GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES OF $1 BILLION WERE REQUIRED.

FINALLY, IN 1999, THE PROVINCE OF NOVA SCOTIA CUT ALL OPERATING SUBSIDIES TO SYSCO AND OPERATIONS CEASED, PUTTING HUNDREDS OF CAPE BRETONERS OUT OF WORK.  

THE ENVIRONMENTAL AFTERMATH THAT CAME FROM A CENTURY OF STEEL MAKING HAD TO BE DEALT WITH AND TODAY THE PARKS AND GREEN SPACES THAT HAVE BEEN CREATED ARE ONCE AGAIN AN ASSET TO THE COMMUNITY.

TODAY, THE LEGACY OF SYSCO IS ALMOST ERASED FROM THE SYDNEY LANDSCAPE, BUT THE CONNECTION CAPE BRETONERS HAVE WITH SYSCO WILL LIVE ON FOR SEVERAL MORE GENERATIONS.

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