US Steel to Idle Alabama Blast Furnace, Finishing Operations

PITTSBURGH – United States Steel Corp. announced Monday that it intends to permanently close its blast furnace and associated steelmaking operations, along with most of the flat-rolled finishing operations at its Fairfield Works in Fairfield, Ala.

About 1,100 employees are affected. The steelmaker’s contract with members of the United Steel Workers there expires Sept. 1.

“There can be no doubt that U.S. Steel’s decision to shut down the blast furnace and other operations in Fairfield, months before its new electric arc furnace comes online, was the result of unfairly traded foreign steel imports,” said Leo Gerard, USW international president.

US Steel announced in March that it would build the electric arc furnace and that project remains on track, according to the shutdown announcement.

The closings follow what U.S. Steel described as “a careful market analysis of the company’s current and long-term global operational footprint competitiveness.  The construction of the EAF at Fairfield Works in place of the facility’s existing blast furnace was included in that analysis.”

“We have made some difficult decisions over the last year as part of our portfolio optimization,” said Mario Longhi, U. S. Steel president and CEO. “We have determined that the permanent shut-down of the Fairfield Works blast furnace, steelmaking and most of the finishing operations is necessary to improve the overall efficiency and cost structure of our flat-rolled segment.”

U.S. Steel said July 29 that it would idle the Fairfield blast furnace. Monday’s announcement added to the closing list — on or after Nov. 17, the company said — the hot strip mill, the pickle line, cold mill, annealing facility and stretch and temper line.  The slab and rounds casters, the #5 coating line and the Double G hot-dip galvanizing joint venture in nearby Jackson, Miss. would continue to operate, the company said, as would Fairfield Tubular Operations.

U.S. Steel, with major production operations in the United States and Central Europe, has an annual raw steel-making capability of 24.4 million net tons.

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