Britain’s Largest Steel Mill to Become Greener, at a Cost of Jobs

Tata Steel said Friday that it planned to shut down the blast furnaces at Britain’s largest steel mill, in Port Talbot, Wales, and replace them with an electric furnace — a move that would cut carbon emissions but could cost 2,800 jobs.

The company, part of the India-based Tata conglomerate, says the steel mill, much of which dates back to the 1950s, has frequently lost money.

“The course we are putting forward is difficult, but we believe it is the right one,” the company’s chief executive, T.V. Narendran, said in a statement. “We must transform at pace to build a sustainable business in the U.K. for the long term.” He said Tata had invested almost 5 billion pounds (about $6 billion) in the British business since 2007, when Tata bought the mill.

Last year, the British government offered £500 million in support of Tata’s plan, which has an estimated price tag of up to £1.25 billion.

Although the announcement was not a surprise, unions representing workers at the plant said they were angry that their proposals to save jobs had been rejected. The plant, one of only two big steel mills left in Britain, employs around 4,000 people, and it was unclear how many of the job cuts would take place at Port Talbot; Tata employs around 8,000 people in Britain.

“It is an absolute disgrace that Tata Steel, and the U.K. government, appear intent on pursuing the cheapest instead of the best plan for our industry, our steelworkers and our country,” two unions, Community and GMB, said in a statement.


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