27 Apr 2012
Steel making resumes at Redcar
The Redcar blast furnace was re-lit on 15 April, marking the resumption of steel making on Teesside and confirming the rebirth — after a two-year gap — of a North East heavy industry that dates back 160 years. The re-lighting of the blast furnace, Europe’s second biggest, was carried out by 11-year-old Wills Waterfield. His father, Geoff Waterfield, who died in August aged 43, was the union leader who led the Save Our Steel campaign and helped to give the former Teesside Cast Products site a future.
TCP was acquired from Tata Steel by Thailand’s Sahaviriya Steel Industries in a $469 million deal in March 2011. The blast furnace, which had been mothballed in February 2010, has been relined and is now operated by SSI UK.
It will be expected to export 3.6 million tonnes of steel slab to Thailand per year for use in South East Asia, fulfilling SSI’s aspiration to become a fully integrated steel maker. As well as taking on 750 existing employees, SSI UK has recruited 1,000 more — half of them former steel workers. Staff who had been made redundant from TCP by Tata praised the commitment of Win Viriyaprapaikit, SSI’s president.
“If Mr Win had not had the faith in us, we would never have come back again,” said Mick Burke, a 55-year-old production manager in the blast furnace. Mr Win, who was present at the re-lighting, said: “We believe in our people, and we believe in Teesside. We have always known it would be a success.”
TCP faced closure after an international consortium cancelled a contract three years ago. The subsequent rundown resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs. On top of the purchase price, SSI has pledged $1.1 billion for start-up and investment costs.