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ArcelorMittal delays halt of BF No. 2 at Fos-sur-Mer: union

London — ArcelorMittal has postponed its plan by a month to temporarily shut down the No. 2 blast furnace at its Fos-sur-Mer mill in France, Sandy Poletto, head of the CGT union at the mill, told S&P Global Platts Wednesday.

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"We just learned that the shutdown of the second blast furnace originally planned for late June has just been postponed by at least a month as the company managed to close some orders," Poletto said.

"If the Fos [No. 2 BF] will stop, only one BF in all France will remain in operation. And this is very worrying, we are waiting for the French state to secure steel production in France – it is a strategic sector," he added.

As reported by Platts originally, ArcelorMittal intended to temporarily shut down the No. 2 BF at Fos-sur-Mer due to lack of orders next month. The Fos-sur-Mer steel works has production capacity of 4 million mt/year and is one of France's largest producers of flat steel, of which 80% is produced for the automotive sector.

Fos-sur-Mer serves Mediterranean and Maghreb countries. Some 30% of its output goes to Italy, 30% to Spain and the rest mainly to north Africa, Turkey and France. Italy and Spain were among the countries hit hardest by COVID-19.

ArcelorMittal idled the No. 1 BF at Fos-sur-Mer on March 23 due to the coronavirus outbreak, as reported by Platts. Other European steelmakers cut production and idled lines as well. Now most of them have resumed, but it is not clear yet how many steel orders the critical car industry will provide. Also, steel workers that have resumed production are working at reduced levels with very short order bookings.

ArcelorMittal employs 2,500 at its Fos-sur-Mer site and a further 1,500 outside contractors. The company has invested more than Eur1.3 billion at the site over the past 20 years. To reduce the site's environmental footprint, Eur100 million has been invested over five years, cutting emissions of dust and sulfur dioxides by 50%.

After the closure of the hot-end at Florange in 2012, only Fos-sur-Mer and Dunkerque, in the north of France, produce crude steel via BFs in France. Dunekerque has three BFs with total annual capacity of 7 million mt, but only one BF there is working at the moment.

According to the World Steel Association, France produced 1.3 million mt of crude steel in March, a decline of 13.2% year on year, while the orders from steel buyers, according to industry sources, decreased by 50%. ArcelorMittal when contacted by Platts did not respond before the editorial deadline.