QUARRY workers have spoken of their pride at helping bring the SSI plant back to production.
Thousands of tonnes of Limestone from Lafarge quarries in Thrislington in County Durham and in Derbyshire are being supplied to the works.
It is the first time Lafarge Aggregates and Concrete has directly sold into the steelmaking market from Derbyshire and the deal could see around 500,000 tonnes a year supplied from the quarry.
Steve Lea, Lafarge northern aggregates sales manager said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us and we are proud to be part of the return of steelmaking in the north east.
“Not only will this bring jobs back to the plant but it will cascade down to all the companies which provide associated services and be a real catalyst for regeneration.”
In preparation for the relight Lafarge supplied by rail initial orders of 15,000 tonnes of both carboniferous limestone from Dowlow and dolomitic limestone – useful for absorbing silica in the iron ore - from Thrislington.
The Dowlow delivery was the first stock of raw material to reach the steel works, ahead of a shipment of iron ore from Brazil, while the Thrislington cargo required the opening of the site’s railhead for the first time in 23 years.
Site manager, Steve Carter said: “The last train went from Thrislington in 1993 so to see the wagons load and move off was a momentous sight. Our railhead is now fully functional, which is great.”
Peter Wheeldon, product technical manager, said: “The reopening of the plant is of immense importance for Teesside, there is a real buzz around the place and a renewed optimism. We are very excited to be part of that.”
An essential element in iron-making – the first step towards creating steel - limestone absorbs impurities in the blast furnace, forming liquid slag which can then be separated from the liquid iron which goes on to make the steel.
Lafarge’s limestone is mixed into a 170,000 tonne stockpile of iron ore and coke dust to form sinter.
This combination is partly burnt at a sinter plant where it forms large lumps called a sinter bed which can be more easily handled by the blast furnace.
The sinter bed, lump iron ore and lump coke are then put in the furnace and cooked at temperatures greater than 1,500 degrees centigrade to create iron.