Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blasting toward a Bright Steel Future; Furnaces at Teesside Plant Ready for Use

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Blasting toward a Bright Steel Future; Furnaces at Teesside Plant Ready for Use

Article excerpt

Byline: Iain Laing

STEELMAKING is set to begin again at the North East's biggest steel plant which was mothballed two years ago with the loss of 800 jobs.

Thai company SSI had hoped to restart production at its Teesside Cast Products site in December last year, but has twice postponed the long-anticipated firing-up of its blast furnace.

The business had been hailed as the saviour of Teesside's 150-year steelmaking heritage when it bought the plant a year ago for pounds 300m from Indian steel giant Tata and promised to recruit up to 1,000 staff.

It has been investing heavily in the Redcar plant, but had dashed hopes that it would re-open in December as the blast furnace was not ready to run.

SSI had blamed industrial action by contractors' staff and windy weather incapacitating its cranes for the delays. It also said that inspections had shown that more remedial work had been needed than expected.

But yesterday SSI UK confirmed that the furnace would be fired up this weekend and the first iron suitable for conversion into steel would be made two or three days after that.

Phil Dryden, chief executive of SSI UK, said: "I am very pleased that we can now look forward to resuming steelmaking at Teesside after a two-year absence.

"This is an historic event, and I would like to record my appreciation to all those who have been involved, for their commitment and hard work, on what has been a complex and demanding re-start programme.

"We now look forward to creating a successful and sustainable business which will benefit the local community and external stakeholders for generations to come."

TCP's problems began in 2009 after a consortium of its main customers withdrew from a 10-year supply contract with five years left to run.

Fears for the future of the plant and its 1,800 staff sparked a high-profile campaign by workers, unions and MPs.

The first attempts to sell the plant to companies including the buyer consortium failed and led to it being mothballed in February 2010 with 800 workers made redundant - a severe blow on Teesside which already has some of the UK's worst levels of unemployment. …

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