The owners of the iconic Redcar steel plant, the reopening of which has twice been delayed, have reported that “the finishing line is now in sight”.
The Teesside plant operated by Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) was originally due to resume operation on 8 December 2011, then on 6 January.
But it was unable to open on that date either, blaming “unfavourable weather conditions, industrial action and additional unplanned, arising work”.
SSI UK has now announced that the heating-up schedule for the furnace stoves has commenced. Four gas-powered stoves heat the blast of air which is blown into the furnace during the iron making process.
The company says the heating up of the stoves will take a number of weeks before it reaches the required working temperature of around 1200C.
SSI UK chief executive Phil Dryden said 90% of the work was now complete.
“The heating up of the blastfurnace stoves is a significant milestone in the programme leading to the restart of operations and I am looking forward to us completing the remaining work over the next few weeks,” he said.
“The finishing line is now in sight and we will announce the blastfurnace blow in date within the next few weeks.”
A reopened plant will be a boon to the recycling industry in the region as it is estimated the plant could need up to 7,000 tonnes of ferrous metal each week.
SSI bought the mothballed plant from Tata Steel in February 2011 in a deal worth £291m.
Meanwhile, home secretary Theresa May last week said the government would add measures to the Legal and Sentencing Bill currently before Parliament to ban cash transactions for scrap metal and increase fines for trading stolen material.