Unions have expressed concern about the future of UK steelmaking after British Steel announced plans to close its coking ovens in Scunthorpe and lay off up to 260 workers.
The Chinese-owned company blamed a “unprecedented” rise in energy costs and environmental demands.
The largest steelworkers’ union warned that the cuts could have a “catastrophic impact” on UK steel production.
Coking ovens convert coal into coke, which burns at the higher temperatures required for steel furnaces.
The closure of the ovens at British Steel’s Scunthorpe headquarters, which means the company will have to import coke, has been viewed as a worrying sign for the health and future of the UK steel industry.
The government described British Steel’s decision as “very disappointing,” while negotiations with the sector over funding support were ongoing.
British Steel, which is owned by the Chinese company Jingye, currently employs approximately 4,200 people in the United Kingdom.
Steel production requires a lot of energy, and as prices have risen in recent months, so have the costs of producing the metal.
According to the company, its energy bills and carbon-offsetting costs increased by £190 million last year, and “decisive action” was required.
It added that its coke ovens were “reaching the end of their operational life” and that closing them would “bring environmental benefits including reductions in emissions to air and water”.
Alun Davies, national officer of the Community Trade Union, which represents the majority of steelworkers, stated that the union would “not accept redundancies” and that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to protecting the jobs of its members.
“British Steel’s plan to close the coke ovens could have a disastrous impact on jobs and steel production in Scunthorpe and across the UK,” he added.