Citing "ongoing challenging market conditions," Liberty Steel Group in Georgetown will remain shuttered with no timeline when it will reopen.
The announcement came Thursday when U.K.-based parent company GFG Alliance said it was extending a three-month closure that began in April because of declining economic conditions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Liberty Steel Georgetown is continuing to operate its ‘care and maintenance’ regime due to ongoing challenging market conditions," Andrew Mitchell, head of U.K. communications for GFG, said in a written statement.
He added that a "skeleton staff will continue to manage the care and maintenance" program at the site, while all orders for wire rod that the mill normally produces will be filled by a sister plant in Peoria, Ill.
The shutdown directly affects about 130 employees and contractors. Liberty Steel officials have said that since the outbreak of COVID-19 it had seen demand for its products "soften" considerably.
James Sanderson, president of the United Steel Workers Local 7898, said the union "clearly understands the reason why Liberty is making the decision to extend the idle of our plant."
"Everybody understands what's going on in this country, as far as with the COVID-19," Sanderson said Thursday. "Instead of being better, we've witnessed it get worse. The one thing we don't want to do is open it up and have to go back down again because it worsened more."
Sanderson said he is optimistic the mill along Highway 17 in downtown Georgetown will reopen soon.
"I'm very confident that in the near future you will see Liberty Steel Georgetown reopen," he said. "If they know that it's going to be down greater than six months, they would issue a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) notice. And if they got knowledge of that right now, they are required to go ahead and issue the WARN notice now. So that's not even a consideration on their part to permanently shut the plant down. You will see, in the very near future, this plant reopen."
"But they want to make sure that everything is certain before they make that decision, and I commend them for that."