Coal, which was the basis of the past power of the country and which has considerably conditioned its economic development model, has undergone a very clear loss of importance, despite being able to count on huge reserves, which, at the current rate of extraction, can still last for a few centuries. The supremacy of coal was almost absolute until the Second World War; in 1947 the coal industry was nationalized (National Coal Board) and, later, only the most profitable wells were modernized; the downsizing of the sector caused very serious problems, also underlined by the many agitations of the miners (the number of these workers was 600,000 units at the end of the 1950s). In fact, coal production, which peaked in 1913, has progressively decreased (from 122 million tonnes in 1979 to 34.7 million in 2001). The largest and most productive basin remains that of Yorkshire-Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire, in England; others are in South Wales and Scotland. The country has also been favored by the concomitant presence, especially in Yorkshire, of iron ores, which for some time have been insufficient to meet the demands of the national industry. They also extract tin, rock salt, barite, fluorite, kaolin. But the resource that has recently revolutionized the country’s mining situation is represented by oil, widely present in the continental shelf of the North Sea and exploited since 1975. New oil fields have been discovered since 1980, in particular in the Dorset, southern England. Good quantities of natural gas are also extracted in Scotland and the North Sea. Oil and coal are also at the service of the production of electricity, mostly of thermal origin. However, while the hydroelectric contribution remains extremely modest, as the water basins are too small to supply considerable quantities of energy (the largest plants are in Scotland anyway), great strides have been made by the electronuclear sector.
According to recipesinthebox, the world’s first nuclear power plant became operational at Calder Hall in 1956: currently about a quarter of the energy produced is of nuclear origin. The industry, which including the mining sector, participates for approx. 24% to the formation of national income, goes through a phase of complex restructuring and change of the territorial model: the basic sectors, initially linked to the availability of raw materials and still fundamental, also for the long production tradition, are flanked by innovative ones, the location of which is much more flexible, being only partially attracted by the old agglomerations and more “mature” areas, and constituting, conversely, a factor in the development of the so far weaker districts. The coexistence of iron and coal naturally favored the birth of iron and steel industry, whose massive developments have then widened the demands to the point of making substantial imports of iron ores necessary; the sector is however in serious crisis and production has decreased considerably (concurrently, moreover, with a contraction that affects all the highly industrialized countries), moving rather towards goods with greater added value and higher technological content (special steels, new alloys etc.). Cast iron and steel are abbreviated to complexes located particularly in north-east England, South Wales, the Scottish Lowlands, etc., and in any case mostly along the coasts, where the imported iron arrives, or near coalfields. The plants use national coke. The metallurgical industry, which naturally makes use of mineral import is also well developed, especially for aluminum metallurgy with various plants mostly in Scotland and Wales; the country also has tin, zinc, magnesium, copper and above all lead refineries. However, among the heavy industries, the one that has received the greatest expansion is petrochemicals. Built in the second half of the twentieth century, it is based on a mighty series of refineries: these are generally large units, located along the coasts at Fawley near Southampton, at Stanlow on the Manchester Ship Canal, at Milford Haven in South Wales, with a complex of three refineries. Numerous pipelines connect the refining areas with the crude arrival ports or consumption areas, such as Stanlow-Manchester and Fawley-London; various oil pipelines are also in operation for the transport of crude oil from the fields of the North Sea to the refineries on the coast. The entire petrochemical sector benefits on the one hand from the active presence of British oil companies in the world, on the other hand from the existence of multipurpose industrial complexes, often with mixed capital (Anglo-Dutch are for example both the Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever, a powerful trust chemist specialized in the production of soaps and detergents in general). The presence of rich salt deposits determined the location of the oldest British chemical district, that of Cheshire and southern Lancashire. Sulfuric and nitric acid are supplied in particular by several Newcastle plants and satellite centers; Glasgow and Birmingham, but also other cities, are specialized instead for the production of ammonia and Aberdeen for that of nitrogen fertilizers.
The dyes industry is well represented in various centers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, which are required by the local textile industry. The sector of plastics and synthetic resins has expanded a lot in recent years and produces materials used in the manufacture of the most varied objects. The pharmaceutical sector also plays a good role. The atomic industry is in great development, which includes centers specialized in the production of isotopes and radioactive materials, research laboratories, nuclear plants, experimental reactors, etc. A sector that as a whole holds up well to international competition is also that of specialized mechanics (Great Britain at the end of the Second World War held the continental record), which has almost replaced the old factories of railway, shipbuilding, textile and agricultural equipment. of which Great Britain was a teacher to the whole world. Since the early nineties there have been aeronautical constructions, electromechanics, high precision mechanics, electronics, etc. to compensate for the severe crisis of heavy mechanics: particularly serious is the decline of the shipbuilding sector, already prestigious, so much so that it has been one of the main instruments of British expansion in the world (many yards have been dismantled). On the other hand, the aeronautical industry occupies a respectable position, located in Bristol and near London, while the automotive and commercial vehicle industry has experienced a significant downsizing after an unexpected development. Another industry already very important and today in difficulty is the textile industry which, after having established itself for at least a century on international markets, is severely affected by foreign competition, both in the former colonies and in many other countries, such as Brazil, China, Taiwan, South Korea, etc., benefiting from very low-cost labor. The oldest textile manufacturing centers are located in Yorkshire; Bradford was the capital of the wool trade and Leeds the seat of the clothing industry, but London also always had great importance in this field. Following is the development of the cotton industry, which arose in Lancashire and which from the very beginning made use of raw materials imported from plantations in America, then in Egypt and India. Liverpool was always the traditional port of landing of raw cotton and nearby Manchester the great center of fabric manufacturing.The silk industry has a certain diffusion, but a more traditional plant is the linen mill, present in Scotland and Northern Ireland.; Finally, artificial and synthetic fibers are of considerable importance. Ancient origin also has the processing of leather and hide; the shoe factory prevails, with factories a Leicester, Norwich etc. The food industry, mainly oriented towards the internal market, has a rather wide range of products. The breweries, located above all in England, and the whiskey distilleries (in particular the Scottish one is exported all over the world) and gin are renowned; also remember the confectionery industries, sugar refineries, canneries etc. Tobacco factories are also of high quality. The ceramic industry boasts ancient traditions, which has its most widespread areas in the Stoke-on-Trent area, the so-called pottery district, in the vicinity of which the glass and crystal industries have also sprung up. Along the Thames and other rivers, such as the Humber, are located the main centers of cement production. Finally, printing and publishing are widespread and widely famous, with large complexes operating above all in the university cities of London, Edinburgh and Oxford.