ArcelorMittal SA on Friday said that it had restarted the second blast furnace at Vanderbijlpark Works ahead of schedule to support the local steel industry following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Photo: Cara Viereckl African News Agency (ANA)
ArcelorMittal SA on Friday said that it had restarted the second blast furnace at Vanderbijlpark Works ahead of schedule to support the local steel industry following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Photo: Cara Viereckl African News Agency (ANA)

Amsa fires up blast furnace to meet expected jump in demand

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - ARCELORMITTAL SA (Amsa) on Friday said that it had restarted the second blast furnace at Vanderbijlpark Works ahead of schedule to support the local steel industry following Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The JSE-listed company said it restarted the blast furnace on December 20 in response to an increase in demand for steel in South Africa and the depleted steel inventories at all stages of the steel supply chain following the restrictions.

The group had initially aimed to restart the second blast furnace this month.

Chief executive Kobus Verster said the blast furnace restart would provide the necessary supply of steel to the local industry against the backdrop of a currently prevailing global steel shortage, with supply lead times running into late second quarter of 2021 almost across the world.

“With all three blast furnaces fully operational at our Newcastle and Vanderbijlpark plants, we expect that we will be more than able to meet the steel requirements in South Africa and neighbouring countries in the coming months,” Verster said.

The restart of the second blast furnace at Vanderbijlpark is expected to add about 600 000 tons of additional annual flat steel production volume, the minimum that can be added through the restart of the additional furnace.

Amsa, Africa’s biggest steel producer, which is owned by Luxembourg-based Mittal, had initially decided to temporarily idle its Blast Furnace C at Vanderbijlpark as well as the Vereeniging Electric Arc Furnace until demand for steel had recovered following an assessment of its strategic asset footprint for July last year.

However, at the end of September last year the group announced the restart of the second furnace at the Vanderbijlpark site following a jump in steel demand at a rate quicker than anticipated. Amsa said that the completion of lockdown-affected construction projects, higher sales at retail outlets and running at lower levels prior to the lockdown had contributed to the increase in demand.

South Africa imposed a national lockdown in March last year to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which compelled underground mines and furnaces to temporary close down. The restrictions were eased in phases, following the restart of the economy.

Verster said it was mindful that the second wave of Covid-19 in South Africa could have an adverse impact on its production ability. “Amsa continues to operate according to the strictest safety protocols to ensure the well-being of all its employees. The company also continues to engage with suppliers to ensure stable production and supply to the South African market,” Verster said.

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