THAI firm SSI will announce next month when it will start producing steel on Teesside – with hopes that up to 300 more jobs could also be created.
SSI completed the £291m takeover of Redcar’s Teesside Cast Products site in March after the blast furnace was mothballed a year earlier with the loss of more than 700 jobs.
SSI has said that a production start date for the site would be confirmed within weeks and that it was considering creating up to 1,100 jobs – 300 more than previously announced.
Phil Dryden, CEO of SSI UK, said: “It will be the middle of next month before we know when we are going live. I’d imagine that between mid-July and the end of July we will be in a position to say: ‘this will be the start date’.”
At the time of the TCP acquisition, SSI had earmarked a start date some time in the final quarter of this year.
But Dryden has said he did not want the plant to rush into production before completing a major re-commissioning scheme – which involves a reconstruction of the inside of the blast furnace – that would give the plant a longer shelf life.
“Every day we are not making steel is costing us money,” he said. “But if we started the plant in the same condition as when it closed, this would not be a successful business long- term. It is not just a restart – it is a major refurbishment.”
Unions welcomed the news that there may be more jobs created at the plant, which was mothballed after an international consortium walked away from a ten-year deal to buy most of TCP’s output after four years.
Geoff Waterfield, chairman of the multi-union works committee on Teesside, said: “In the initial stages, the numbers will be what they were before.
But Mr Win and SSI have plans for expansion and a long-term future – and that takes more staff.”
And this week, Tata Steel, which sold the plant to Tata, was paid £80m by the consortium of buyers which pulled out of the supply agreement.
The Indian company said it received the payment after an arbitration panel found that the consortium of four companies had broken the terms of the agreement.
The consortium – Duferco of Switzerland, Marcegaglia from Italy, South Korea’s Dongkuk and Ternium of Argentina – quit the deal after the world market for steel plunged in the global recession.
The original agreement had been drawn up in 2004 between the consortium and Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus, who sold the TCP business which employed 1,700 staff, to Tata three years later.
The arbitration panel had heard how the plant was shut in February 2010 when Tata failed to find new buyers to replace the consortium after it failed to honour the contract.