Sahaviriya Steel Industries relights Redcar blast furnace

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Europe’s second-largest blast furnace was relit on Sunday afternoon by Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) of Thailand, 26 months after it was mothballed by Tata Steel.

In February 2011 Tata Steel UK sold certain assets of Teesside Cast Products to SSI in a deal worth $469m (£290m).

Since then, SSI is said to have invested an additional $1.1bn for start-up and investment costs.

It is expected that the first iron suitable for conversion into steel will be produced within the next two to three days.

From next month, the steel produced at Redcar will almost exclusively be exported to Thailand. The plant is expected to have an annual capacity of 3.6 million tonnes and by the end of 2012 the facility will export to Asia. The workforce is expected to rise from 1,700 to 1,800 when production peaks.

George Dunning, Redcar council leader and campaigner for the return of steelmaking to the area, said: ‘It’s extremely important because at Redcar and Cleveland Council we’ve lost 500 public-sector jobs over the last two years due to the coalition government’s cuts.

‘To have another 100 well-paid steelworker jobs coming to the area is great. For the local economy of Redcar and Cleveland it’s a major boost.’

Steelmaking is the bedrock of a north-east heavy industry that dates back to the 1850s. The blast furnace, now heating up to 1,200°C, will be used to produce the site’s first steel slab in more than two years.

Unite national officer Paul Reuter said: ’This is great news for our members, the community and UK manufacturing. This is a testament and a great reflection of the skills of UK workers. These dedicated workers thoroughly deserve this and the long-term security of employment this brings for them.’

Meanwhile, Michael Leahy, general secretary of union Community said: ‘This is a great day for Teeside and a tribute to all those who campaigned in the local community and nationally to Save our Steel. We will be working closely with the company to ensure a successful future for all.’

‘It has been two years since steel was produced at the Redcar plant, but the determination of a community, the foresight of a foreign company, the partnership of both the public and private sector and the outstanding reputation of a workforce has ensured its return,‘ added James Ramsbotham, chief executive of North East Chamber of Commerce.

Sahaviriya Steel Teesside is a Tier 1 World steel slab producer capable of producing various advanced steel grades. The site is integrated with a deep-water berth and ore terminal for easy access to imported raw materials.