Doncaster workers face unemployment as British Steel announces plans to close blast furnace

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British Steel has announced a £1.25bn plan to replace two blast furnaces in Scunthorpe, a move that would further reshape the UK steel industry and could eventually threaten the jobs of up to 2,000 steelworkers, many from Doncaster.

The company, owned by China’s Jingye, has informed workers that it proposed to replace the two blast furnaces at Scunthorpe with an electric arc furnace, and another at a site in Teesside. That would mark the return of steelmaking to Redcar, where the blast furnace was demolished last year after its closure in 2015.

Steelworkers' union Community has voiced its concerns about the plans.

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Community Union General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “Community acknowledges British Steel’s early engagement on proposals to transition to green steel and we welcome the company’s commitment to support our experts to scrutinise their plans. It is deeply disappointing however that once again our members first heard of these plans through irresponsible leaks to the media.

The Scunthorpe plant.The Scunthorpe plant.
The Scunthorpe plant.

“We are deeply concerned by British Steel’s plans for an EAF-only approach at Scunthorpe and Teesside, and it is vital a meaningful consultation takes place to assess all the options to secure the future of steelmaking. Were they to be realised the plans that British Steel has announced, combined with Tata Steel’s plans, would leave the UK unable to make steel from raw materials and dangerously exposed to international markets. Community firmly believes that the blast furnaces continue to be vital in any responsible transition to green steelmaking.

“Even the Government’s own backbenchers recognise that an EAF-only approach is dangerous and foolhardy, with the Conservative Northern Research Group only this weekend urging the Prime Minister to intervene to keep the blast furnaces open.

“All options for decarbonisation must remain on the table, and Community will do whatever it takes to protect our members interests. With the right commitment from all stakeholders we can deliver a just transition that saves our planet, saves our jobs, and saves our steel.”

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Community has continually highlighted how an EAF-only approach is the wrong solution to decarbonising the steel industry. Such an approach would require the import of virgin steel to supplement scrap steel used in furnaces - meaning that carbon emissions would be exported to heavy-polluting countries and the industry would no longer be self-sufficient in the UK.

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