Blast furnaces at U.S. Steel Gary Works are pictured in this aerial photo.  Staff file photo
Blast furnaces at U.S. Steel Gary Works are pictured in this aerial photo. Staff file photo
U.S. Steel is now idling blast furnace #4 at Gary Works immediately and indefinitely as it escalates its response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker had planned to idle the blast furnace for a planned maintenance outage for 48 days, starting in April. But now it will remain offline until market conditions allow as the company tries to "preserve a strong long-term future in response to COVID-19 impacts."

“In this unprecedented and rapidly changing situation, our first priority remains the safety and well-being of our employees," President and Chief Executive Officer David B. Burritt said. "As an essential part of our critical infrastructure, our employees have embraced the special responsibility to continue making the steel society needs, including the packaging for our food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic response. To ensure a more secure future for all our stakeholders, the time has come for us to take aggressive actions to reposition the company."

U.S. Steel also is idling blast furnace A at Granite City Works and completing the indefinite idling of the iron and steelmaking facilities at Great Lakes Works near Detroit. In late May, the company will idle most of Lone Star Tubular Operations in Texas and Lorain Tubular Operations in Ohio because of weak market conditions that followed the plunge in gas prices.

The steelmaker is laying off 850 workers in Ohio and Texas as part of its response to the deadly virus, which has caused more than 27,000 deaths worldwide.

"The short-term actions announced today are difficult but necessary," Burritt said. "Our focus on cash and liquidity will ultimately position us to achieve our longer-term goals as a stronger organization.”

The steelmaker plans to slash capital spending at its mills by $125 million to about $750 in 2020. It will delay construction of its endless casting and rolling line and cogeneration facility at Mon Valley Works and pause planned upgraded at the hot strip mill at Gary Works.

U.S. Steel also has increased its revolving credit facility by $800 million to increase cash and liquidity if the economic fallout of the coronavirus gets worse.

“U. S. Steel has been a cornerstone of manufacturing for over a century and our products are vital to national and economic security. I am confident in the resilience of our employees, the strength of our customer relationships, and the reliability of our regional supply chain. The actions we are announcing today make us stronger and enable us to weather the current situation to emerge as a leader in sustainable steel solutions for generations to come," Burritt said.
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