Industrials group, Liberty House, is to re-open another large steelworks as it steps up the expansion of its integrated UK steel and engineering business.
Liberty, which re-started its first British steel mill at Newport, South Wales exactly a year ago this week, (16th October) is now aiming to re-start rod and bar mills at Sheerness in Kent which shut down more than four years ago.
The Group, which acquired the assets in January 2016, had originally intended to move all equipment, including the melt shop and the rolling mills, from Kent to another of Liberty’s sites. But, in order to get the rolling mills back up and running more quickly, it has now agreed a new long-term lease with Peel Ports, who own the land at Sheerness, and aims to restart production of bar and rod there by mid-2017.
News of the re-commissioning of the 750,000 tonne a year rolling mills follows hard on the heels of the official relaunch by Liberty of the iconic Dalzell plate mill at Motherwell near Glasgow only two weeks ago.
The restart of the Kent plant further broadens the range of steel products Liberty will be able to supply the UK steel market, which includes hot rolled coil from it Newport works, heavy plate from Dalzell, and re-bar and wire rod from Sheerness. The Sheerness rod and bar mills can produce up to 750,000 tonnes a year taking Liberty’s UK steel rolling capacity to 2.5m tonnes per annum.
VB Garg, chief executive of Liberty Steel Newport said:
“We are particularly excited about the prospect of restarting the Sheerness rolling mills which were closed by the previous owner four years ago. Although we originally thought we would move the mills elsewhere, we now believe it will be better to reopen the existing site as it will save time and cost and allow us to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the market.”
He added that the company would be recruiting an initial workforce of 60 people, rising to 100 as market conditions allowed.
“We hope some of the former workers will consider coming back but either way we intend to invest in building skills for the future.”
Mr Garg said he was confident Sheerness would repeat the success of Newport, which has become a thriving business over the past year as its agile business model enabled it to reclaim an important share of the market for hot rolled coil.
Meanwhile the Group is continuing preparations to install liquid steel-making capacity as part of its GREENSTEEL strategy. Earlier this month, it announced the creation of a specialist company, Liberty Metal Recycling, to assemble and process scrap to melt in arc furnaces.
The one million-tonne a year electric arc furnace that previously operated at Sheerness, along with associated casting equipment, has now been dismantled and will be moved to a strategic location in the near future. A final decision on this location will be made in the next few weeks.
Liberty is targeting production of 5m tonnes of liquid steel per annum over the next five to seven years in arc furnaces spread across Wales, the Midlands, the North East and Scotland.
Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman of Liberty House Group said:
“The reopening of Liberty Steel Newport exactly a year ago signalled the start of the most remarkable phase in the Group’s 24-year history and led on to the acquisition of steel and engineering operations right across the country. More importantly it has led to the development of the GREENSTEEL vision to make British steel competitive again through low-cost, low-carbon production. We are delivering on that vision and our growth will continue to accelerate in the years ahead.”