Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 17:40 UK

Steel plant restarts production

Llanwern steelworks in Newport
An increase in orders means the hot strip mill at Llanwern can restart

Production at the Corus hot strip mill at Llanwern near Newport is to restart next month, the steel giant says.

It has been mothballed since January, but the company says there has been some growth in orders and it wants to satisfy this increasing demand.

However, the restart will not reverse any of the 528 job losses at the plant.

Steel union Community welcomed the move and said it would be seeking a meeting with Corus to discuss the long-term implications.

Tim Rutter, head of communications for Corus Strip Products UK, said the hot strip mill at its Port Talbot steelworks further along the south Wales coast is now working "flat out" and senior managers have taken the decision to restart Llanwern to increase capacity.

Our long-term strategy for Llanwern is that it is to be a 'flex-plant'... low cost, flexible and efficient
Tim Rutter, Corus

However, he was cautious about the upturn in business, saying: "We don't know how sustainable this slight increase in demand will be.

"We will constantly review what capacity is needed, our first choice is always to use Port Talbot because of the energy situation and the cost of transporting steel to Llanwern."

"We also hope to increase capacity of the Port Talbot mill to 4m tonnes per annum by the middle of next year," he added.

The company stressed that the decision to restart production at Llanwern will not reverse any of the job losses announced in January.

Corus Strip Products announced at that time that 528 jobs were going at Llanwern and now roughly 850 staff remain, with around 500 working directly in manufacturing.

Some of these staff will be redeployed to work on the hot strip mill.

"Our long-term strategy for Llanwern is that it is to be a 'flex-plant'," said Mr Rutter. "Low cost, flexible and efficient".

Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community, said: "At face value this is great news for our members in Llanwern and will bring much needed hope to the workforce.

"Sadly, this comes too late to save hundreds of jobs but we will be seeking a meeting with Corus to discuss the detail of the announcement and its longer-term implications."

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