Liberty Ostrava will temporarily idle its no. 2 blast furnace until the end of August while the plant’s no. 3 blast furnace will remain in production, the company announced on Thursday.
Following an assessment of market conditions relating to COVID-19, the company is taking steps to adapt to the substantial slowdown in the European steel industry by reducing hot metal output by 20pc and more effectively managing its inventory, Liberty Ostrava indicated in a press release.
It noted that idling the blast furnace will help the steelmaker remain flexible commercially and in operations so that it can most efficiently adjust to changing customer demand.
The May to July period is a seasonal peak for the construction industry with the highest level of steel shipments, however the company’s customers are now reporting about 30pc less demand.
The no. 2 blast furnace will be put under a schedule for maintenance and upkeep so that it will be able to recommence quickly when the economy improves.
Less than 7pc, or about 400 employees will be affected by the shutdown the steelmaker said, however, work will be redistributed to available openings, and some will be placed on temporary rotation of unemployment at 70pc pay. Those employees may continue regular plant access, to continue professional development while minimizing impacts individually and on families.
For now, Liberty continues working on implementing its strategic investment announced in Feb 2020. The company also plans to submit an environmental impact assessment application for its new hybrid furnace to environmental authorities for approval this month and projects the furnaces will be functional in 2022.
Liberty Ostrava is an integrated steel mill with production capacity of about 3.6mn mt per year, serving the construction, machinery and oil and gas industries. The company provides products to over 40 countries globally, in addition to the Czech market, and has 6,000 employees including its affiliates in Ostrava.
Liberty Ostrava is a part of the Liberty Steel Group, a GFG Alliance company, owned by Sanjeev Gupta and his family.