On 26 July, Tata Steel marked the launch of a £240 million investment at its Port Talbot works in South Wales by calling on government at all levels in the UK to take urgent and immediate action to create growth and remove obstacles for recovery in the manufacturing economy.
The investment comprises the £185 million project to rebuild Port Talbot’s No. 4 Blast Furnace and a simultaneous project to install a £55 million steel-plant gas cooling system.
The company’s CEO, Dr Karl Köhler, was joined by the Welsh Government’s First Minister, the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM and Edwina Hart MBE OstJ AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology & Science, in celebrating the project’s final, implementation phase. During this four-month period the old furnace will be dismantled and a new furnace assembled. Vital power, cooling and environmental management facilities will also be constructed. The rebuild project is set to be completed in November this year.
Dr Köhler said, "This project is a vital part of Tata Steel’s capital investment programme in Europe. This year alone, the company is committed to investing more than £250 million here in Wales. Our aim is not only to make this Welsh steelworks one of the most competitive steelmaking operations in the EU, but also to provide a strong foundation for the whole of UK manufacturing through the supply chains that this location serves.
"Today I am crediting the Tata Steel team – which includes our partners in this project, the suppliers and contractors – who are delivering this highly complex, very impressive and vital engineering project.
"We are demonstrating our commitment to a future of serving our customers and local communities by making major investments for the future. But the economy is facing grave challenges. We cannot be sure steel demand will be sufficient by December to merit relighting this furnace immediately. I therefore call on all levels of government in the UK to respond to our commitment by taking action to create growth in the economy and by reversing policies that add unilaterally to the UK’s disproportionately high energy costs."
The Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales, said: "Wales is a steelmaking country – steel has played a major role in our history and the investment we are seeing today shows it will continue to be central to our economic future.
"Tata Steel has been open about the challenges it faces due to the global market for steel. Despite these difficulties it remains committed to Wales and the investment of £185 million into this new blast furnace is evidence of their long-term commitment to Port Talbot and Wales.
"My message today is that no matter how long it takes before we see an upturn in the global economy, the Welsh Government will continue to work closely with Tata Steel every step of the way to make sure steelmaking in Wales has the strongest possible future and continues to support our economy and jobs."
Michael Leahy OBE, General Secretary of the Community union, said, "We welcome this investment from Tata Steel as a measure of their strong commitment to the industry in Wales.
"However the Government also needs to realise that without the conditions that create more demand in the economy and stimulate investment and production, then the long-term prospects for the UK and our competitive position in international markets remain bleak, as is shown by yesterday’s shock collapse in economic output and the ongoing double-dip recession".