Mittal laying off 700 workers at W.Va. steel mill

Well, it looks like the large scale shutdowns of operating mills “to keep the price of steel high” has started.

It’s also an interesting question (to me as an outsider anyways) – if bringing slab (which is awfully heavy) from other places is cheaper than operating the furnace, why is the furnace there in the first place? They aren’t shutting down the whole place, just the blast furnace.

AP Wire

Mittal Steel Co. is shutting down its only operating blast furnace in West Virginia for eight to 10 weeks, laying off 700 workers at its Weirton mill until business picks up, the company said Thursday.

That’s one-third of the current work force at the Northern Panhandle mill and the first layoffs of permanent employees since now-defunct International Steel Group bought the former Weirton Steel Corp. in May 2004.

‘I am concerned by this temporary shutdown, but I am not surprised,’ said Mark Glyptis, president of the 2,100-member Independent Steelworkers Union. ‘We understand the steel market is going through a gradual slowdown and price decrease. Hopefully, this layoff and partial shutdown of our blast furnace will be short in duration.’

Crews will prepare for the outage over the next few days, said Bill Brake, Mittal’s executive vice president of operations for the East.

‘We’ll bring it back up when the market tells us that the time is right,’ he said.

Mittal had already planned a plantwide vacation for the last week of July. Brake said the remaining Weirton workers will manufacture products using slabs from other Mittal operations.

Word of the layoffs came just days after the furnace was brought back online from a nearly two-week ‘banking.’ When a furnace is banked, it’s filled with raw materials and kept hot inside so it can be brought back into production quickly. Workers used the down time to repair, clean and paint the mill.

This time, the furnace will sit cold, requiring about a week to restart.

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