ArcelorMittal has postponed its plan to temporarily shut down blast furnace No. 2 at its Fos-sur-Mer plant in France for a month, said CGT union chief Sandy Poletto.
“We just learned that the shutdown of the second blast furnace, originally planned for the end of June, was delayed by at least a month as the company was able to close some orders,” Poletto said.
“If blast furnace # 2 (BF) is shut down, only one BF in all of France will remain in operation. And this is very worrisome, we are waiting for the French state to provide steel production in France – this is a strategic sector, ”he added.
As originally reported, ArcelorMittal intended to temporarily close BF number 2 in Fos-sur-Mer due to a lack of orders next month. The Fos-sur-Mer metallurgical plant has a production capacity of 4 million tonnes per year and is one of the largest French producers of sheet steel, of which 80% is produced for the automotive sector.
Fos-sur-Mer serves the Mediterranean and Maghreb countries. About 30% of its production goes to Italy, 30% to Spain, and the rest mainly to North Africa, Turkey and France. Italy and Spain were among the countries hardest hit by COVID-19.
ArcelorMittal reported that BF # 1 in Fos-sur-Mer was stopped on March 23 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Other European steelworkers also cut production and shut down lines. Currently, most of them are resumed, but it is not yet clear how many steel orders the critical auto industry will receive. In addition, steelworkers who have resumed production are operating at reduced levels with very short orders.
ArcelorMittal has 2,500 employees at its site in Fos-sur-Mer and an additional 1,500 external contractors. Over the past 20 years, the company has invested over 1.3 billion euros in the facility. In order to reduce the impact on the environment, 100 million euros were invested over five years, which reduced dust and sulfur dioxide emissions by 50%.
Since the closure of the hot end at Florange in 2012, only Fos-sur-Mer and Dunkirk in northern France are producing crude steel through BF in France. Dunekerque has three BFs with a total annual capacity of 7 million tonnes, but currently only one BF is operating there.
France produced 1.3 million tonnes of crude steel in March, down 13.2% year-on-year, while orders from steel buyers fell 50% according to industry sources, according to the World Steel Association. [: ]