Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 15th 2016 Contents BG4 COVER STORY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 15 • 2016
The local steel industry has been in
free fall for much of 2016. With
ArcelorMittal in liquidation and com-
panies such as Tube City IMS and
Centrin forced to shut down their
operations, one would conclude that
all was lost for producers in the domestic market.
But, in the midst of all the closures, liquidations,
union disputes and lay-offs, there is one company
that has managed to not just survive, but thrive in
the existing commodity environment.
That company is Nu-Iron Unlimited.
Set up in 2006 at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate,
Nu-Iron---a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nucor (North
America s largest steel producer)---specialises in the
production of direct-reduced iron (DRI).
In an interview with the Business Guardian, Nu-
Iron general manager Mike Hess discussed the chal-
lenges facing the steel industry, how Nu-Iron s oper-
ations differ from that of other players in the steel
market and why having a dedicated and competent
workforce has been at the heart of the company s
success in these difficult economic times.
Since its operationalisation in 2006, Nu-Iron has
been a fixture in the local steel industry. From its
facility in Pt Lisas, the company produces roughly
1.8 million tonnes annually of direct-reduced iron
(DRI) from iron ore (the raw material used to make
steel) imported from Brazil and Canada.
Its DRI plant---one of two in the Nucor group---
exports the finished DRI to Nucor facilities in the
United States where they are converted, using electric
arc furnace technology, to steel products for sale in
Hess, a native of Utah, has been at the head of the
company s operation since 2014. In that time he s
witnessed the global steel industry enter a period of
sustained decline in commodity prices.
Questioned about the impact of the price decline
in the global steel industry on Nu-Iron s operations,
Hess said the fallout has been minimal, if not well
He said: "At our plant here in Trinidad, we re
having a strong year despite the decline in the global
steel economy. We re on pace right now for a record
production for 2016. We ve benefitted from lower
iron ore costs and gains in yield improvements. The
Trinidad plant, along with our DRI plant in Louisiana,
are important components of Nucor s company-wide
raw material strategy giving us (Nucor) the flexibility
to optimize our overall raw materials."
Hess added that an uptick in steel demand in the
US, along with an associated decline in steel imports
for the first six months of 2016, has allowed its DRI
facilities to continue operating and grow its levels of
He said: "We are seeing some positive effects on
steel demand in the US and pricing in the US that
allows our DRI facilities to continue to operate at full
capacity during these economically challenging times
when it comes to the steel industry."
The closure of the ArcelorMittal operations at the
Point Lisas Industrial Estate placed more than 600
workers on the breadline, with even more being
affected if the associated ancillary service providers
are taken into consideration.
Asked whether Nu-Iron had absorbed any of the
additional labour on the market following Arcelor-
Mittal s closure here, Hess said: "To date, since the
announcement came out that Mittal was winding
up its Trinidad operations, we ve hired three former
Mittal employees in an operations capacity. We have
a total employee base of 155 people because of the
relatively small size of our plant and we have a very
low employee turnover at Nu-Iron. So we haven t
had a lot of openings come available. In the last two
years, we ve only lost four people mainly because
they ve taken up positions within Nucor in the US."
Hess noted that though unfortunate, the displace-
ment of labour in the steel industry had presented
Nu-Iron with a unique opportunity.
In the face of recession, gas pains
Continued on Page 5
Nucor Corporation---a Fortune 300 com-
pany headquartered in Charlotte, North Car-
olina---is the largest and most diversified
steel and steel products company in the
United States and the largest "mini-mill"
steel maker (ie it uses electric arc furnaces
to melt scrap steel as opposed to blast fur-
naces to melt iron).
It currently has 27 steel making divisions.
Nucor is also North America's largest recy-
cler of any material and recycled over 16
million tonnes of scrap in 2015.
In 2015, the company produced over 25
million tonnes of steel. The company has
over 20,000 employees spread across 200
locations around the world.
We're on pace right now for a record production for 2016. We've
benefitted from lower iron ore costs and gains in yield improvements.
Mike Hess, general manager
PHOTOS: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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