Italian steel mills to close in COVID-19 plan: AM Taranto, Arvedi exempt

Certain Italian steel mills will have to shut down most operations under a government decree issued Sunday, tightening restrictions to fight the spread coronavirus.

The government has ordered the suspension of industrial and commercial activities that are not essential by March 25.

Market sources said that although most mills would not be allowed to continue production, some are trying to secure the requisite permission from local prefects to carry on. Unions have promised to fight such moves and say they are ready to call a huge strike to prevent plants staying open.

Under the government decree, continuous production cycle plants activities are permitted “from which interruption results in serious damage to the plant itself,” but again this is subject to a greenlight from the local prefect.

AM Italia: BFs said operational

ArcelorMittal Italia’s plant in Taranto, the largest Italian flat steel producer, has some continuous cycle production at its plant that should be allowed to keep running.

On Saturday it shut down blast furnace No.2 at Taranto, as well as the facility’s No.1 melting shop. Crude steel production will be around 8,500 mt/day, with only two blast furnaces — No.1 and 4 — continuing to work, unions sources told S&P Global Platts.

“AM Italia has shut down some of the hot end; we do understand that BF1 and BF4 have to continue to be operative, but we ask to shut down all the other cold end part activities that are still working in Taranto as well as in the sites of the company based in North Italy such as the Genoa re-rolling plants and Novi Liguri,” a union source said.

“We urge the government and the prefects to listen to us and stop all the activities — there is no need for the cold end parts to work for the time being, also considering that most of the Italian steel producers’ buyers — domestic and not domestic — have halted productions, in particular the automotive sectors,” he added.

Unions were due to meet with company representatives Monday afternoon.

The company declined to comment.

Arvedi to continue producing

Arvedi will continue to produce steel, according to an official note Monday from the second largest Italian flat products producer.

Arvedi operates electric arc furnaces (EAFs) and scrap, a raw material which has seen a sharp price decrease due to the outbreak. Most of Arvedi’s core production is for the automotive sector, which is currently largely idle.

Arvedi declined to comment when asked on which grounds the prefect had granted it the greenlight to continue working. However, in a brief note to the press the company underlined that “the production activities continue regularly in full compliance with the Decree itself and all the safety measures already put in place by the Group for some weeks to protect all its workers.”

Arvedi’s Servola plant in the Trieste area was due to close permanently at the end of March in any case.

Arvedi is based in one of the areas of Italy which has suffered most fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak.

— Annalisa Villa