International Steel Mills

CRU: Usiminas restarts blast furnace in challenging market

Written by CRU Americas

Brazilian steel maker Usiminas has resumed operations at blast furnace (BF) No. 3 at its Ipatinga works in the state of Minas Gerais.

The restart comes after a BRL2.7-billion ($546-million) refurbishment on the unit, which has capacity of three million metric tons (mt) per year.

The company also idled the 600,000 mt/y BF No. 1 last month. And citing the impact of dramatically higher import volumes, it said it could do the same with BF No. 2.

Usiminas flags risk of rising imports from China

50% increase in steel imports, mainly from China, has depressed prices in Brazil. It has also led to reduced steel production, devastated Brazil’s industry, and is affecting the entire industrial production chain, according to Usiminas.

If imports continue to grow, there is a risk of shutting down the 600,000 mt/y BF No. 2, CEO Marcelo Chara said. “We need to adapt our production structure to market conditions,” he was quoted as saying in local media. “It is impossible [to increase production] with the current market conditions and the invasion of imported, subsidized steel.”

The Brazilian Steel Institute will file a complaint that China is dumping steel, he added. The country’s steel companies have unsuccessfully pressured the government for months to raise the import tariff on steel to 25% from 12%. Brazil’s steel-consuming groups have lobbied against higher duties.

Chara also said of last month’s idling: “Shutting down Blast Furnace 1 meant more than 100 layoffs and, of course, these 100 jobs were created in China to export steel to various countries.”

Features of the upgraded BF

He made his comments at a press conference held to mark the restart of Ipatinga’s modernized BF No. 3. The furnace incorporates technology that should allow Usiminas to improve operational efficiency, reduce its environmental impact, and improve working conditions.

The work included a relining, a new cooling system, and the installation of an automation system for the 50-year-old furnace. The company also modernized two continuous slab-casting machines and a primary refining area.

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