ArcelorMittal South Africa's Vanderbijlpark plant has returned to full production, weeks ahead of a planned restart due to a pick up in steel demand, the company said on Friday.
The firm which is Africa's largest steelmaker had said in September it would resume production at its Vanderbijlpark plant in January 2021 after it cut back output due to a drop in demand following the Covid-19 lockdown.
However, an improvement in local demand saw the restart of the second blast furnace at the company’s Vanderbijlpark Works on 20 December.
"The company accelerated the restart to December....in response to an increase in demand for steel in South Africa and the depleted steel inventories at all stages of the steel supply chain following the Covid-19 lockdowns."
ArcelorMittal said the "timely restart" would help meet the supply of steel to the local industry in the face of the prevailing global steel shortage, with global supply lead times running into the latter part of the second quarter of 2021.
"With all three blast furnaces fully operational at our Newcastle and Vanderbijlpark plants, we expect that we will be more than able to meet the steel requirements in South Africa and neighbouring countries in the coming months," said Chief Executive Kobus Verster.
However, the producer said it was aware that the second surge in Covid-19 in infections in the country could have an adverse impact on its production ability, adding that production was going ahead under the required safety protocols.
The local demand for steel was at its lowest before the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown late in March, with the key construction industry hit by months on non-activity. Apart from the Vanderbijlpark Works, ArcelorMittal SA also has operations in Vereeniging, Saldanha and Newcastle.