A general view shows the Corus steelworks in Redcar
A general view shows the Corus steelworks in Redcar, northern England February 19, 2010.

A little over two years ago, Tata Corus closed down their Teeside Cast Products plant in Redcar with the loss of 1,600 jobs by late February 2010. With the parent company in India expressing a willingness to sell the steel mill, Geoff Waterfield, Chairman of the Multi-unions at Redcar, expressed the hope in mid-2010 that a buyer would be found and that steel would again be produced at the site by Christmas that year, but this proved to be far too ambitious.

Mr Waterfield had pinned his hopes on a quick sale to the Thai steel firm Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) and sure enough, on 27 August 2010, Corus (the then owner) CEO Kirby Adams and SSI President Win Viriyaprapaikit, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to buy the plant. It was not until 24 February 2011 however, before the MoU became a done deal and SSI bought Teeside Cast Products for £300 million, officially taking over the plant a month later on 25 March 2011.

Promising to invest £600 million over the coming five years, SSI Interim Managing Director of the Redcar plant, Mr Dave Reed, indicated that steel production would start in the Autumn of 2011. This too would prove to be wishful thinking and unfortunately, in the meantime Waterfield, who had done such a great deal in trying to save the Redcar plant, died on 31 August 2011 at the age of 43.

Finally, with technical difficulties behind them, on Sunday 15 April 2012, the Redcar steel mill was open for business once again. Waterfield's 11-year old son, Wills Waterfield, was given the honour of relighting the blast furnace. The first steel slabs should be produced in the next three days.

SSI, the new owner, is the largest steel sheet producer in South-East Asia and has a current hot-rolling capacity of four million tonnes per annum. The company is very positive and enthusiastic about its new purchase in the North-East.:

"...The site has an efficient plant layout and excellent infrastructure, integrated with a deep-water berth and ore terminal for easy access to imported raw materials...(the plant) is fully integrated from raw material agglomeration, coke making, through to iron and steel making and power generation. The blast furnace at Redcar is the second largest...in Europe...(and) has an annual steel slab production capacity of 3.5 million tonnes.

"...The passion that the Teeside community has for the steel industry is second-to-none in the world, and the area is blessed with (a) highly-skilled and hard-working workforce and experienced engineers."

Initially, the company aims to export Redcar's production to Thailand in order to compliment its hot-rolling capacity but there's also the potential in the relatively near future to establish a major wind turbine industry at the site. All good news for Redcar with an Unemployed Claimant Count.of 7.2 per cent and nearby Middlesbrough which has the country's third highest Claimant Count of 9.9 per cent

Great for Teeside and Great for Britain!