British-Indian steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta has invited Prince Charles to reignite a furnace in northern England which had been mothballed by Tata Steel, its previous owners.
The N-Furnace at Liberty Speciality Steels in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is an electric arc furnace which forms part of a multi-million-pound investment by Gupta Liberty House Group.
It is the larger of the Rotherham plant two electric arc furnaces mothballed by Tata Steel in 2015 at the height of the steel crisis. Switching this furnace back on, after it had lain idle for more than two years, is a pivotal moment in the revival of UK steelmaking and we are very pleased His Royal Highness is able to share this hugely symbolic milestone with us, Gupta said.
The occasion makes a very powerful statement that steel does have a future in Britain and that is very good news for the whole of our manufacturing and engineering sector, he added.
The 800,000-tonne-a-year furnace, which turns scrap metal into specialised steel for uses such as vehicle gearboxes and aircraft landing gear, will now play a pivotal role in Liberty overall GreenSteel strategy, designed to usher in a cleaner and more competitive era for the industry in the UK. It was acquired last year by Liberty, which as part of a wider GFG Alliance is creating 300 new jobs at Rotherham and its sister plant in Stocksbridge, as well hundreds more across the UK after a series of acquisitions in the sector.
When Gupta bought the business in May 2017, he had pledged to restart the furnace as part of an initial 20-million-pound investment plan to expand the Speciality operation and create an additional 300 jobs.
Since then, hundreds more jobs are being created in the wider GFG group, which describes itself as Britain fastest-growing industrial employer with 5,500 staff UK-wide.
Yesterday switch-on marks the culmination of five months engineering work by a team of 35 people to repair and upgrade the equipment. It will triple Liberty capacity to melt scrap into liquid steel at Rotherham, making the company the largest steel recycler in the UK, with a capability to melt over 1.2 million tonnes a year.
The company said that it would also move the business closer to its target of installing 5 million tonnes of GreenSteel production capacity within five years.
In addition, restarting N-Furnace will enable the Rotherham plant to double production on its adjacent bar mill to over 400,000 tonnes a year. During his visit to the 2,000-worker business, Prince Charles was briefed by Gupta, the executive chairman of GFG Alliance, on progress towards his group vision for an industrial revival based on renewable energy, metal recycling and integration of the supply chain.
The royal visitor also met several young people who will form part of a new generation of skilled workers for the steel sector and wider industry, including Liberty apprentices and graduate recruits.
The skill set also includes Industrial Cadets from local schools whom the company supports to develop their knowledge and experience of industry, with a view to building careers in metals, manufacturing or engineering.
Prince Charles had backed the establishment of the nationwide Industrial Cadet programme seven years ago, following a visit to see the steel industry in north-east England. The Liberty Group said it has a strong commitment to developing young people skills and its Speciality Steels business alone is recruiting a dozen graduates and 20 apprentices this year to train in engineering, technical and support roles.
The company also delivers bespoke training at the dedicated apprentice centre it runs in collaboration with Sheffield College on its Stocksbridge site. Liberty Speciality Steels has established itself as a fully-integrated steel manufacturer and distributor which has major production centres in South Yorkshire and the Midlands and dedicated distribution and service centres in Bolton, Lancashire; Nagpur, India; Chicago, US, and Suzhou and Xi in China.
Its capabilities range from liquid steel production through to high-value, precision-engineered products that are sold around the world. Liberty Steel UK is part of the GFG Alliance, a London-headquartered international group of businesses founded and owned by the UK-based Gupta family.
The Alliance comprises Liberty an integrated industrial and metals business; SIMEC a resources and infrastructure group; Wyelands a banking and financial services arm; JAHAMA Estates a division that manages and develops the Alliance global property holdings; and GFG Foundation, which focuses on the retention and creation of engineering and industrial skills.
The vision of GFG Alliance is to promote industrial revival based on low-carbon and sustainable production methods through its GreenAluminium and GreenSteel strategies.