Brazil’s Usiminas restarts No1 BF at Ipatinga mill

Brazilian flat steel producer Usiminas has restarted its No1 blast furnace (BF) in Ipatinga city, in the country’s southeastern Minas Gerais state, it said on Wednesday August 26.

Usiminas has resumed activities at the blast furnace and its No1 steelworks at the mill, both halted in April because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Brazilian economy.

“The rebound of the Brazilian economy is already happening,” Usiminas chief executive officer Sergio Leite said at the event to celebrate the BF restart.

The restart of the No1 BF was originally scheduled for the first half of August. The equipment has capacity to produce 2,000 tonnes per day of pig iron, the company said at the event on Wednesday.

The steelmaker decided in April to idle two blast furnaces and one of its steelworks at Ipatinga, as well as the whole of Cubatão mill, in the southeastern state of São Paulo.

Usiminas’ Ipatinga unit has three blast furnaces with total production capacity of 5 million tonnes per year of crude steel. Its No2 blast furnace, with capacity to produce 600,000 tpy of crude steel, will remain halted, while its No3 blast furnace, with capacity to produce 2.2 million tpy of crude steel, remains operational.

Usiminas has lost its lead in the domestic flat steel market during the second quarter because of the stoppage of production in Ipatinga and the company’s exposure to the automotive sector.

But a recent recovery in demand for flat steel products and tight supply has led to price increases in the domestic market.

Fastmarkets’ latest price assessment for steel hot-rolled coil, domestic, monthly, exw Brazil was 2,800-2,885 Reais ($502-517) per tonne on August 14, up by 55-90 Reais from 2,745-2,795 Reais per tonne a month before.

Steelmakers are also planning to raise prices further in September, by an average of 10%, according to market participants.

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