The blast furnace at the former Corus plant in Teesside has been relit, with new owner SSI re-employing many of the workers Tata Steel made redundant in 2010 after mothballing its Redcar plant.
A gas lance ignited by embers from a working blast furnace was used for the ceremonial lighting of the stoves, performed by Wills Waterfield, the 11-year-old son of late union chief Geoff Waterfield, and welcomed by cheering workers.
Win Viriyaprapaikit, president of SSI, said: “I believe the investment we have made at Teesside will result in a very successful business which will benefit all of the stakeholders involved, including the local community and employees for generations to come.”
The first steel slabs are expected to be produced over the next three days. The steel produced at Redcar will be initially shipped to Thailand, but SSI management hopes that in the future it will be used to supply manufacturers of wind turbines in the UK.
Phil Dryden, chief executive of SSI UK, commented: “We look forward with confidence to resuming the long tradition of steelmaking on Teesside and establishing SSI UK as world class steelmaker.”
The furnace has been heating up since February, as part of a complex restart programme – deemed a “titanic struggle” by Mr Dryden. The restart is expected to bring relief to the area after it suffered badly from the number of jobs lost at the site two years ago.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “It is great news that, after a two-year absence, the Redcar blast furnace will be lit again. I look forward to SSI starting steel production once again in the North East.”
Unite national officer Paul Reuter also commented: “This is a testament and a great reflection of the skills of UK workers. These dedicated workers thoroughly deserve this and the long term security of employment this brings for them.”
Photo by David Barrie