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Trostre Steelworks in Llanelli is safe, confirms Tata after MP expresses job loss fears

01 May 2024 6 minute read
Trostre Steelworks, Llanelli. Photo by Tata Steel UK

Martin Shipton

Tata Steel UK has confirmed that its Trostre Steelworks in Llanelli will be virtually unaffected by the job cuts announced for its plant at Port Talbot.

The company released a statement to Nation.Cymru saying Trostre’s production line would be safe and that only 12 office-based staff would be affected by the job losses. This came a day after Llanelli’s Labour MP, Dame Nia Griffith,had raised concerns about the plant’;s future in the House of Commons.

Addressing David TC Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, she said: With the closure of the coke ovens making the viable lifespan of the blast furnaces all the more precarious, and the electric arc furnace still being a long way off, we will rapidly reach a situation where Port Talbot can no longer supply the Trostre works in Llanelli in my constituency, so what talks has the Secretary of State had with Tata bosses about securing high-quality interim supplies for Trostre and securing all the jobs there?”

Mr Davies responded: “I have spoken to Tata on that very issue. It has been clear that it would have to import steel to feed Trostre, and it is willing to do that. The timeline for the electric arc furnace is ambitious, but work is ongoing: the groundworks will start very shortly, the application for planning permission should go in in the autumn, and hopefully it will be turned round and dealt with by early next year. It will then take about two years to build the electric arc furnace.”

Investment

A Tata Steel spokesman said: “The £1.25bn investment into electric arc furnace based steelmaking in Port Talbot will secure 5000 jobs and reduce the site’s emissions by c.5 million tonnes of CO2 each year. It will provide the company’s downstream processing businesses such as its packaging steels business in Trostre, Llanelli with the green steels which their customers are so desperate for.

“The company is expecting to commission its new electric arc furnace at the end of 2027. During the transition period it will continue to serve customers using coil rolled from imported slabs in the hot strip mill in Port Talbot, or with hot rolled coil imported from Tata Steel plants in the Netherlands and India as well as other select strategic suppliers.”

The spokesman added: “Hot rolled strip steel is the feedstock for Trostre, which then cold rolls, anneals and coats the strip with tin for a wide range of packaging applications – food cans, pet food cans, aerosols, fancy packaging etc. 100% of Heinz baked bean cans are made of steel rolled and coated at Trostre.

Trostre currently employs around 700 people. It takes in hot rolled steel from Port Talbot and IJmuiden, in the Netherlands, and some cold rolled steel from Llanwern, near Newport.

Tata Steel’s packaging recycling team is based at the site, responsible for managing the largest steel reprocessor in the UK.

The works was one of the first large manufacturing sites in the UK to attain ISO 14001 accreditation, the European Standard for Environmental Management.

Nationalised

Trostre’s history dates back to the late 1940s. When it was formed in 1947, the nationalised Steel Company of Wales was under UK Government pressure to both increase production and profits, and to rationalise its production base. As part of its strategic plan, the company envisaged creating two new tinplate works, one at Trostre and one at Felindre, Swansea.

With more than 12,000 men unemployed in Llanelli after World War 2, the decision was made to focus on construction of the Trostre plant to make best use of the area’s developed skills in tinplate manufacture.

Production started in 1951, which was also the year in which the delayed Felindre plant was given approval for construction. Output reached the planned 400,000 tons in 1956.[3]

In 1967, the Steel Company of Wales was nationalised with others to form British Steel Corporation. Choosing to close the tinplate works at Port Talbot Steelworks, they invested in all three remaining tinplate works within the newly formed South Wales group: Trostre, Felindre and Ebbw Vale. With four electrolytic continuous tinning lines installed at each plant, they were capable of combining to produce two million tons of tinplate per year.

Trostre Steelworks, Llanelli. Photo Tata Steel UK

While Felindre had always out produced Trostre on quality and volume since the start of its production in 1956, after a review of its tinplate sites in South Wales, British Steel decided in December 1980 to close Felindre. Some 1,300 people were made redundant in March 1981, though 138 were found jobs at Trostre. Production at Felindre finally ceased in 1989, when another 108 were given jobs at Trostre.

Merger

In 1999, a merger was announced between the Koninklijke Hoogovens steel company of the Netherlands and British Steel to form a new company Corus.

With much tinplate consumption moving to the newly expanding Asian market, it came as little surprise when Corus announced in 2001 that the focus of tinplate production would be at Trostre. The Ebbw Vale site was shut the following year with the loss of 780 jobs.

The Corus plants were bought by the Tata group of India in 2007.

In January 2024 Tata confirmed it would be shutting down the two blast furnaces at Port Talbot and replacing them with an electric arc furnace, which is more environmentally friendly but less labour intensive.

Around 2,800 jobs are expected to be lost at Port talbot, where Tata is said to be losing more than £1m per day.

Tata Steel has rejected a plan from unions to keep one blast furnace running at Britain’s biggest steel plant in Port Talbot while it transitions to greener steel production.The company’s chief executive and managing director, TV Narendran, said the unions’ proposal was not “financially or operationally viable”.

First Minister Vaughan Gething is travelling to Tata’s corporate headquarters in Mumbai to ask the group’s main board to think again, but the expectation is that the announced plans will go ahead.


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Annibendod
Annibendod
20 days ago

I worked at Trostre for 5 years. I was a technical specialist. I’m not surprised to hear that Trostre will be supplied from within the group in the interim. It’s the only way it can continue to produce. I’m concerned about supply chain problems and cost. Then when the EAF’s are producing – will they produce the steel chemistries Trostre needs? I hope I’m wrong but I have a feeling of dread about this in the pit of my stomach. Llanelli cannot afford to lose Trostre Works. I don’t trust either of our governments to invest to replace it.

Charles
Charles
20 days ago

Arc furnaces have been around for decades. Has there been no advance in technology during that time?
Why have Tata not invested in Arc Furnaces before now in Port Talbot?

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