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Latin American Steel: A retrospective in 101 Essays
October 2015

October 2015

On three occasions this month I have spent time in the BBC Radio 5 Live studios answering questions on the ailing British steel industry. My on-air ‘appearances’ were the result of SSI UK and Tata Steel closing plants and slashing jobs in Redcar and Scunthorpe in the United Kingdom – and it’s all China’s fault.

The Chinese economy is slowing but China is producing more steel than it needs.  Result? It ‘dumps’ excess metal on foreign markets, the global steel price dips and steel producers struggle to survive. It’s happening all over the world, but unlike in North America – where anti-dumping and countervailing duties are imposed on ‘rogue nations’ like the Chinese – Europe’s lumbering bureaucratic machinery is slow, and some would say unwilling, to react.

Something must be done, but I doubt if David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, will jeopardise his rather dangerous nuclear power deal with the Chinese by berating Xi Jingping for dumping cheap steel on the UK market.

The Chinese problem is one that requires a multi-lateral approach. Xi Jingping needs to be told – in no uncertain terms – that China can’t expect to be granted ‘market economy status’ (which it craves) if it doesn’t behave like one. Make no mistake: Chinese steel producers, unlike those in the west, don’t have to generate a return on capital. We’re back to what western steel producers crave most: a level playing field. But will they ever get one and does anybody really care? Not the UK government, it seems.

The proverbial ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ must be wondering whether the British Government is serious about the survival of its homegrown heavy industry and, indeed, the much talked about ‘northern powerhouse’ it promised to create if a high speed rail link is  established between London and ‘the north’. It’s all beginning to sound like empty rhetoric.

How is it that we find ourselves in a position where, through countless European directives and punitive green taxes, we have regulated our foundation industries into virtual oblivion? Why have we given steel producers in other regions of the globe an unfair advantage when it comes to competing on the world stage?

Applauding ‘globalisation’ is fine, but why should western steel producers play with both hands tied behind their backs?

This issue of Steel Times International discusses many different subjects. On the technical front we have three interesting articles on ironmaking and then, in keeping with our aim to keep readers abreast of the latest steel industry conferences, a report from the editor of the magazine on the 49th World Steel Association Conference, which this year was held in the Windy City, Chicago, USA.

Myra Pinkham discusses the US Oil Country Tubular Goods market and, in Perspectives, we hear from Thermo Fisher Scientific's Kevin Quinn who argues that overcapacity creates opportunities.

Regular features, such as industry news, country updates and, of course, the History page make up this month's issue and we still have one more issue to go before the year-end.

October 2015 Contents

Recent News

Oerlikon sells to Atlas Copco

Global technology group Oerlikon has sold its Leybold Vacuum business to Atlas Copco as part of a streamlining strategy designed to develop the company’s ‘best-in-class’ businesses.

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Russian steelmakers plan new capacity by 2018

Russian steelmakers are planning to introduce new steel production and processing facilities by 2018, according to MMK’s Maxim Lapin, director of business development and performance management.

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Chinese crude steel output down 3.1%

As China’s economy continues to slow and GDP for Q3 2015 peaks at just 6.9 – the slowest quarterly growth in six years – crude steel production in China for October was down 3.1% when compared to the same period last year. 

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Overseas profits problems for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Co.

Net profits from overseas operations are likely to be virtually non-existent in 2015 for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal following Brazilian subsidiary Usiminas’ US$555 million net loss for the January-September period.

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Recent Features

Plenty to shout about?

Dark grey to black prospects? A 'dying elephant' with a 'smoke stack' image? When it comes to reputation enhancement, some argue that the global steel industry has its work cut out, but others are much more upbeat. Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International, reports.

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Time to get tough?

China has been a key theme at steel conferences around the world. Many a distinguished speaker has called for 'a level playing field' and some have warned against awarding China 'market economy status' because it will open the floodgates to even more exported steel. China is already 'dumping' millions of tonnes of steel on foreign markets around the world. While many observers wonder what effect (if any) anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties are having on the situation, there is a growing sense of unease in 'rest of the world' steel markets. By Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International.

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Optimising Consteel continuous scrap feeding with roof-fed DRI

For EAF furnaces charged jointly with scrap and with DRI through the roof, feeding the scrap via a Consteel pre-heater conveyor rather than by bucket enables a shorter power-on time, increases productivity and improves all other operating parameters, except carbon injection, resulting in a significant saving in electrical energy. By F Memoli*, J A T Jones** & F Picciolo***

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No room for complacency

Safety in any heavy industrial environment is top priority, and the key to a safer steel production plant is impeccable leadership and constant awareness of the risks. Keeping workers safe is initiated from the top down and there's no room for complacency. By Matthew Moggridge, editor of Steel Times International

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