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Key part of Sparrows Point to be sold and moved

Above: Sparrows Point in its heyday in 1954 when it employed 30,000 workers.

In a huge blow to any attempt to restart the Sparrows Point mill, a steel group says it has purchased a key part of the Baltimore County facility – and intends to move the equipment to its southern steel facilities.

“We acquired pieces of equipment to enhance existing operations at our four cold mills,” John Ferriola, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Nucor Corp., told trade journal American Metal Market.

He was referring to the New Cold Mill (NCM), opened in 1999 and considered the most modern and profitable part of the complex.

The Nucor purchase breaks up a core finishing operation at Sparrows Point and will make it nearly impossible to sell the Baltimore County mill to a producer – or for the mill ever to manufacture steel again.

Not a Surprise

While not unexpected – The Brew has previously reported that the dismantlement of Sparrows was the most likely scenario following last August’s bankruptcy sale to the Hilco Group – Nucor’s purchase of parts of the annealing furnace, tandem mill and pickler extinguishes the hopes of United Steelworkers Local 9477 for furnace fires to return.

Last month, 9477 president Joe Rosel told a union membership meeting that two companies were willing to purchase Sparrows Point from Hilco and restart steel operations in the spring of 2013. He suggested that about 1,000 union members would return to work.

In a previous interview, Rosel said, “Plan A is to sell the plant to a strategic steelmaker to get people back to work.”

Union sources say Sherman Metals, an Illinois steelmaker, was one of the companies that had approached Hilco about buying the facility.

Bedrock of Baltimore

The world’s one-time largest steel mill – and a bedrock of Baltimore’s manfacturing economy – stopped operations last June following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of its parent RG Steel. The plant employed about 1,600 union workers and about 500 white-collar and contract employees.

Nearly the entire workforce has been idled and Hilco, an industrial liquidating company, has no legal obligations to the union or to restart operations.

Hilco did put out an offer for the sale of all or parts of the steel mill, with bids due on December 21.

In the meantime, the company has arranged for the sale of a great deal of mobile and machine equipment at the plant, including railroad locomotives, dump trucks, tractors, truck cranes, slab carriers and “torpedo” railcars used to carry molten iron.

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