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Mingo steel mill could reopen

Rumors circulating of employees hired for restart

SPECULATION GROWS — Reports are circulating through the area that an unidentified steelmaker is ramping up efforts to restart the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. plant in Mingo Junction. As many as 300 workers could be hired, reports indicate. – Mark Law

MINGO JUNCTION — Rumors that steelmaking will resume at the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. plant have been circulating for the past 18 months, but that talk could soon become reality.

Reports have surfaced during the past week that employees have already been hired to restart the facility.

Jefferson County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he has heard there may be as many as 300 workers hired.

“This is a big shot in the arm for Mingo Junction and Jefferson County. Mingo definitely needs the business, as well as Jefferson County. It is great to hear a company believes in the area and will open a portion of the plant. It is good for people looking to get back into the steel industry in some capacity,” Graham said.

Graham said he has heard about the reopening of the steelmaking operations at the plant from reliable sources.

“It is good news,” he said.

Graham said it is his understanding an official announcement is expected to come in the next couple of weeks.

Mingo Junction officials said Tuesday some of the workers may start employment at the plant in September.

Mingo Junction Mayor Ed Fithen said he’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning when the official announcement is made.

“It would be tremendous. It would be a big boost to our economy. I always said there was light at the end of the tunnel and it is looking brighter all the time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. That would be great,” Fithen said.

Evan Scurti, Jefferson County Port Authority executive director, Wednesday confirmed he and other development officials have met with the prospective owner concerning the former steel plant.

“We talked to the prospect and it looks like a good, solid opportunity. We will have a follow-up meeting soon and are hoping this turns into an operating company,” he said.

Scurti said he was not permitted to discuss any further details because of a confidentiality agreement with the prospective company.

The name of the company has been kept under wraps, but it has been reported the firm is from India.

A steelmaker from India was looking to reopen a section of the plant in late 2014, but those plans never came to fruition because of concerns about financing for the project. The same steelmaker has added partners to improve its financing, reports indicate.

Mingo Junction councilmembers at the time said they had heard that calls had been made to former steel plant workers asking if they were interested in coming back to work.

The company interested in buying the plant reportedly wants to restart the 80-inch rolling mill in the late fall and restart the electric arc furnace next year.

The Mingo facility, the largest of the former Wheeling-Pitt plants, still contains the modern $115 million electric arc furnace that had been installed in 2004. However, workers have not produced any steel at the plant since its 2009 idling while under the ownership of OAO Severstal.

Ownership passed to RG Steel, and after its 2012 bankruptcy, Buffalo, N.Y.-based Frontier Group of Cos. purchased the entire Mingo facility — including the electric arc furnace — for $20 million. Frontier has since demolished most of the northern part of the plant.

A Canton real estate agent started marketing the former plant in March.

Bryce Custer, a real estate adviser working with NAI Spring in Canton, told the Herald-Star then that he had “a couple of preliminary interested parties,” looking at the 300-acre plant property that has facilities, “appropriate for slag processing, warehousing, frack water and pipe lay down, along with barge access, railroad scales and railroad siding with service from Norfolk Southern and Wheeling and Lake Erie Railways.”

Mingo Junction water department officials reported that office has been contacted about rates for supplying water to the plant, but the water has not been turned on.

The Jefferson County Recorder’s Office reported no real estate sale has been filed concerning a sale of the property.

Robert Zuchlewski, Frontier Group of Cos. chief executive officer, didn’t return an e-mail request for comment.

(Law can be contacted at mlaw@heraldstaronline.com.)

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