ArcelorMittal vows to address South Africa’s steel shortages

ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) said in its 2020 integrated annual report that it was committed to addressing the country’s steel shortages.

Chief executive Kobus Verster said recently the group had experienced considerable delays with starting the N5 blast furnace in Newcastle. Verster said the N5 setbacks were frustrating, particularly because of the group’s intense focus on addressing customers’ steel shortages that had been building up since before COVID-19.

“In the new year we have budgeted and planned to fix the problems caused by the unusual post-pandemic start-up of N5 and to improve its reliability.

Conversely, production of flat steel at Vanderbijlpark was very successfully resumed, from June blast furnace D and December (blast furnace) C,” said Verster.

AMSA, South Africa’s biggest steel producer, has been under fire for the critical steel shortages in South Africa.

One of the group’s detractors, the National Employers Association of South Africa (NEASA) said last week that the shortage was a direct result of AMSA’s deliberate decision not to start the second furnace at Vanderbijlpark following the first hard lockdown last year.

NEASA said AMSA had two blast furnaces at its Vanderbijlpark works and when they operated only one of them, by necessary implication, they only operated at 50 per cent capacity, which was not sufficient to supply the South African market.

“Although AMSA started up the second blast furnace in January 2021 six months too late, it still was not capable of addressing the backlogs. The unavailability of steel sent prices skyrocketing for the now desperate steel manufacturing industry.”

“That same ‘second’ blast furnace very recently experienced technical problems and has been out of operation for more than a week, which further aggravates the already critical shortages,” said NEASA.