ArcelorMittal South Africa says Saldanha steel plant will keep operating

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – ArcelorMittal South Africa’s Saldanha plant will keep operating, its chairman said on Wednesday, after the facility was placed under review earlier this year due to low steel prices and rising costs.

The plant, north of Cape Town is the newest in the company’s fleet and was opened in 1998 to focus specifically on steel exports, but low steel prices and high electricity and transport costs made it unprofitable last year.

“As the board, we are comfortable that we will have a Saldanha that is a good, healthy, performing business for a long period,” said ArcelorMittal South Africa Chairman Mpho Makwana.

The weaker rand and a pickup in West African steel demand have since ensured the plant’s viability, said acting Chief Executive Dean Subramanian.

South Africa’s currency lost about a quarter of its value from end of May last year until now, providing relief to some of the nation’s exporters.

Subramanian and Makwana were speaking at the release of report on ArcelorMittal’s contribution to South Africa’s economy, which also stated that the plant was responsible for 16 percent of the steel produced in Africa’s most industrialised country.

ArcelorMittal will start maintenance at Saldanha in August, which Subramanian said would increase the plant’s life by up to five years.

 

(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia)

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