The blast furnace at the iconic Redcar steel works was relit last weekend, providing a major boost for scrap metal dealers in the region.
The former Corus works was taken over by Thai firm SSI in 2010, a year after it was mothballed with the loss of 1,600 jobs.
The works had been beset by delays since the original 8 December 2011 restart date was missed. SSI bosses and unions blamed industrial action, weather and unplanned work for the setbacks.
But the first steel slabs were due to be produced at the site this week, marking a return to steel making for Teesside.
SSI chief executive Phil Dryden said: “This is a historic event and I would like to record my appreciation to all those who have been involved, for their commitment and hard work, on what has been a complex and demanding restart programme.
“We now look forward to creating a successful and sustainable business which will benefit the local community and external stakeholders for generations to come.”
One scrap merchant in the north-east told MRW last year that the reopened plant could require up to 7,000 tonnes of scrap ferrous metal per week. SSI declined to comment on the amount and the BMRA said accurate figures were not available.
British Metals Recycing Association director-general Ian Hetherington said: “We really welcome Redcar restarting. Especially with the loss of Thamsesteel, this hopefully will provide a strengthening of the domestic market for ferrous scrap.
“We are very keen to see a strong domestic market and I think Redcar provides some glimmer of hope for the long-term future. We wish Redcar well and believe it will be of great benefit to the regional ferrous scrap industry.”
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop told the Teesside Evening Gazette: “One thing that will stand out for the SSI managers will be the enthusiasm and Teesside grit of their workers. This is a great day for everyone after all the pain we as a community have had to endure.”