2,000 British Steel jobs at risk over plan to shut blast furnaces
BRITISH Steel yesterday announced plans to close its blast furnaces, putting up to 2,000 jobs at risk.
The coal-fired blast furnaces in Scunthorpe are set to be replaced with green alternatives as part of a £1.25billion decarbonisation drive.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs could be axed, according to unions, on top of 3,000 roles already under threat at rival Tata Steel.
The blast furnaces are set to be replaced with two electric arc furnaces – one at British Steel’s headquarters in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, and another at its Teesside manufacturing site.
Unions said the proposals would be a ‘hammer blow’ for the UK steel industry. British Steel, which is owned by China’s Jingye Group, said the plans were ‘subject to appropriate support from the UK Government’, worth at least £300million.
The firm, which is planning to open the new furnaces by late 2025, has begun preliminary talks with unions and agreed to an external specialist to review the proposals.
Chief executive and president Xijun Cao said: ‘We have engaged extensively with the public and private sector to understand the feasibility of producing net-zero steel with our current blast furnace operations. however, thorough analysis shows this is not viable.’ In September Tata Steel secured a £500million government bailout to fund its green strategy, which includes closing its blast furnaces in Port Talbot and the loss of thousands of jobs.
Unions warned that the combined closures mean the UK will no longer be able to manufacture virgin steel from raw materials.
Instead, the sector will be able to repurpose scrap steel using the new electric furnaces.
Community Union leader Roy Rickhuss said it ‘would leave the UK... dangerously exposed to international markets’. India’s Tata Group is expected to make 3,000 workers redundant, although a statement on its Port Talbot plans was pulled last week.
GMB national officer Charlotte Brumpton- Childs said the proposals were a ‘ hammer blow for UK steel’. She added: ‘Potential job losses on this scale would be devastating for the people of Scunthorpe.’
A government spokesman said: ‘Our commitment to the UK steel sector is clear, and we continue to work closely with industry, including British Steel, to secure a sustainable and competitive future for the sector and its workers.’