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SSI eyes future challenges as it reaches million tonnes milestone
FIVE months after a North-East steel plant was reopened, ending a two year hiatus, production has hit the one million tonnes mark.
The SSI plant in Redcar yesterday marked a major milestone that bosses said was testament to the skill and dedication of its workforce and the ongoing support of suppliers who have helped the company to weather a turbulent spell in the industry.
Since the blast furnace roared back to life on April 15 and the first steel slabs rolled off the production line a few days later, SSI has been combating a perfect storm of challenges, which has included rising raw material costs and plummeting prices of steel slab on the global markets.
To help balance the books the company recently agreed a deal for Vanomet Holding, the world's leading steel trader, to make a £110m cash injection that will lead to the Switzerland-based company taking a stake in SSI. Once the deal is ratified next month by SSI shareholders it will help to give the iron and steelmaker the liquidity it needs to pay suppliers as it moves towards the next phase of development - the launch in the new year of a pulverised coal injection plant that will boost productivity and efficiency.
Phil Dryden, chief executive of SSI UK, said: "Although this has been a very tough year for steel businesses across the globe, the plant has operated extremely well since the restart and this is another important milestone reached.
"It is a demonstration of the commitment shown by SSI UK employees and is testament to the support received from all the stakeholders involved in the rebirth of iron and steelmaking on Teesside .
"In terms of celebrations today is nowhere near as emotional a day as when we relit the blast furnace or when we produced the first slab of steel. But is it very significant nonetheless. The one millionth slab is symbolic of a plant that is pumping out slabs day after day. It should give us all confidence that from an operational point of view we are performing very well."
Most of the steel that has been made at the site is shipped to Thailand, via Teesport, where it is used to make cars and kitchen appliances.
In Wednesday's Jobs and Business supplement Business Editor Andy Richardson hears how SSI UK boss Phil Dryden has been battling to keep the steel firm on track.