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Liberty Group’s Sanjeev Gupta restarts Tata Steel’s mothballed unit

In his sustained efforts to revive the UK’s steel industry, Indian-origin businessman Sanjeev Gupta yesterday reactivated a unit at one of his British steelworks mothballed by Tata Steel UK at the height of a crisis in the global steel industry.

Liberty Group chairman Sanjeev Gupta.
Liberty Group chairman Sanjeev Gupta. Photo courtesy: Lliberty Group

Gupta's Liberty Speciality Steels in South Yorkshire region of England re-opened the 'small bloom' caster at its Aldwarke works in Rotherham more than 18 months after it was shut down by the previous owner Tata Steel UK, PTI reported.

The move, which will see red hot strands of steel being produced at the unit once again, has the potential to create 150 new jobs over the next few months.

"Speciality Steels is an operation of the highest international calibre with highly-skilled people. We're investing to ensure this business can capitalise on growing opportunities and reclaim its leading position in the market," said Gupta, executive chairman of the global GFG Alliance of which Liberty is a key component.

Liberty purchased the 1,700-worker Speciality Steels business from Tata Steel UK in May and began an initial 20-million-pound investment programme to boost output by repairing and upgrading mothballed machinery, adding new equipment and generating a total of 300 new jobs.

The company said the re-commissioning of small bloom caster equipment and an associated coiler at the neighbouring Thrybergh mill has already created 64 new jobs.

Further jobs will be created as production from the revamped caster increases dramatically to provide more high-grade steel bar for automotive and engineering components in the UK and beyond, Liberty said.

Peter Hogg, chief operations officer for Liberty Speciality Steels noted, "We plan to increase our production of steel bar threefold within a year by bringing this equipment back into use. I'm optimistic that we'll achieve that. There is a great spirit of determination in the business and people are eager to change and move forward.

"We've still got a lot of work to do but recommissioning the small bloom caster and the coiler is an important and very encouraging milestone for us," he said.

The company is also aiming to re-ignite Rotherham's second electric arc furnace early next year, restoring the site's position as one of the UK's leading producers of recycled steel.

Labour MP from Yorkshire Angela Smith, who was present at a launch ceremony for the caster today said, "The workers in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and elsewhere in the Speciality Steels business went through a period of great anxiety and uncertainty when the steel industry was in turmoil, but the re-commissioning of key pieces of equipment and the creation of new jobs is a clear sign that things are now heading in the right direction."

The Speciality Steels business, which is an important supplier of steel for the global aerospace and oil and gas industries, includes major sites at Stocksbridge and Rotherham, as well as processing and service centres in Lancashire, the West Midlands, and in China.

Liberty said it is working towards claiming a bigger share of the aerospace and energy markets and by meeting the growing demand for high-grade steels to make vehicle parts such as gearbox parts, suspension springs and hydraulic drives.

British car-makers are looking to buy an increasing proportion of their vehicle content from UK sources and this trend is expected to accelerate post-Brexit, the company said.

It claims that the Speciality Steels business was already benefiting from being part of the wider Liberty Group.

For example, off-cuts from the engineering processes at Liberty's automotive pressings plant in Coventry generate around 24,000 tonnes of high-grade steel scrap a year for melting at Rotherham.

Some of this metal is eventually engineered into high-value auto-components at Liberty's plants in the West Midlands and other parts of the UK.

"This is an example of a sustainable circular economy that can grow and become resilient, thereby protecting jobs for the long-term," Gupta explained.

Tushaar Kuthiala
Tushaar Kuthiala – Associate Editor

Tushaar has extensive experience as a journalist and in founding two start-up newspapers. He has developed editorial models for both copy and content, and has written several articles, news reports on a wide range of topics. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and earned a post-graduate diploma in TV Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai. He has worked as a special correspondent based in New Delhi with Daily World, an international media organisation.