RedCar steel plant
The Redcar steel plant could be saved by the government, the GMB workers' union said Reuters

Up to 1,700 jobs could be lost in the UK as steel company SSI UK announced its Redcar plant will be closed down. Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK announced that, due to challenging market conditions, the plant will be mothballed, which could cost many steelworkers their jobs.

SSI's UK business director Cornelius Louwrens commented: "This is an extremely sad day for all of us at SSI UK, and in particular our employees and their families. Together with our parent company and the various other stakeholders, they have worked so hard in their endeavours to try and make this business successful."

"Despite the significant progress we made in the financial performance of the business during 2014, market conditions this year have been extremely challenging," he added. "I would like to pay tribute to and thank everyone connected with SSI UK for their great support."

The company bought the plant from Tata Steel in 2011 as part of a major investment in the UK. Work at the Redcar plant, near Teesside in north-east England, was paused on 18 September, as SSI told workers it was struggling to make it profitable.

The workers and employers now have 45 days to consult about their possible fate. Workers' union GMB responded with discontent and called on the government to do something to prevent hurting thousands of families.

GMB national officer David Hulse said the news was absolutely devastating. He stated: "All that will be left operating will be the coke ovens unless the UK government steps in even at this stage. It is not too late for them to do so while the furnaces are still burning. GMB will do all in our power to press the case for government to act and to protect our members and their families."

Steel, like many other commodities, has suffered from an immense drop in value. At the start of 2015, steel was trading around $480 per tonne, but has now fallen to slightly more than $135 per tonne.

The news comes less than a month after Tata steel announced the partial closure of its Newport plant, costing 250 jobs.