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Tata Steel brings forward UK coke ovens closure

Tata's two high-emission blast furnaces in Port Talbot are to close this year (Geoff Caddick)
Tata's two high-emission blast furnaces in Port Talbot are to close this year (Geoff Caddick)

Indian-owned Tata Steel UK said Monday that it would shut down coke ovens at its Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales starting this week -- months earlier than previously announced.

The ovens, which had initially been planned to close from July, are used to turn coal into coke, a key raw material used in the steel-making process.

Tata Steel UK chief Rajesh Nair said the date had been brought forward to Wednesday "as a result of significantly deteriorating operational stability".

"The performance of the coke ovens has been deteriorating over many months, despite some Herculean efforts by the teams there," he said.

"The condition of the ovens has now worsened to a level making continued operation untenable."

Tata had said in January that it was planning to shut the coke ovens and two high-emission blast furnaces in Port Talbot, the biggest steelworks in the UK, leading to the loss of up to 2,800 jobs in the Welsh town.

The closure coms with the European steel industry facing upheaval as it tries to finance less carbon-intensive production.

Tata said it is investing £1.25 billion ($1.6 billion) into electric arc furnace technology to try to cut long-term carbon emissions.

Alun Davies, national Officer for steel at the steelworkers' union Community, called the early closure of the coke ovens a "massive blow".

But he added that "Our number one concern is the safety of our members."

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