U.S. Steel permanently closes Hamilton blast furnace and steelmaking

U.S. Steel will permanently close its idle iron and steel-making operations in Hamilton by the end of the year, but coke production at the plant will continue, officials say.

Mario Longhi, CEO of U.S. Steel Corp., said in a conference call Tuesday that it will close the operations by Dec. 31.

Forty-seven non-union employees will be "affected," according to U.S. Steel spokeswoman Courtney Boone.

“Notice will be provided to those employees affected, and every effort will be made to reassign them," she told CBC News. “The permanent shutdown affects the iron and steel-making operations, which have been on temporary idle since late 2010.”

The blast furnace, steel shop and casters will be permanently shut, she said. “Coke making and finishing at the Hamilton works will continue.”

Rolf Gerstenberger, head of Steelworkers local 1005, said the announcement is mainly a loss of hope that the steel-making jobs would return.

"It means we're not going to make steel in Hamilton, we're just going to roll it."

He said the announcement will have no impact on the 600 or so unionized workers still employed there. In its heyday in the 1980s, the plant, then known as Stelco's Hilton Works, employed roughly 14,000 people.

The company said it will take a non-cash charge in its fourth quarter of approximately $225 million related to the decision.

U.S. Steel acquired the integrated steel-making operations when it bought Stelco, one of Canada's largest steel manufacturers, in 2007. 

The U.S. company pledged at the time to invest at least $200 million in its Canadian facilities, to produce an average of 4.3 million tons annually over a three-year span, and to employ an average of 3,105 employees.

In 2011, U.S. Steel made a deal with the federal government to keep producing steel in Canada and operate its Lake Erie and Hamilton plants until 2015. It also pledged an additional $50 million in investment to settle with Ottawa, which had taken court action against the company over production cutbacks.


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