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Geneva Steel laying off 96

Remaining coke batteries will be shut down for good

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VINEYARD — Geneva Steel LLC announced Wednesday it will permanently shut down its cokemaking operations, resulting in the layoff of 36 employees by the end of this week.

In addition to the cokemaking shutdown, another 60 workers at Geneva's pipe mill will be let go at the end of this week, leaving 156 employees at the plant, according to Carl Ramnitz, vice president of human resources.

Coke is a derivative of coal and is used in blast furnaces as a fuel source in producing liquid iron.

The shutdown was precipitated in an effort to conserve hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, according to Ken Johnsen, Geneva's chief executive officer.

"Given the current coke costs we are better off shutting the (cokemaking operations) down and buying from third-party sources," Johnsen said.

At full production capacity, the integrated steelmaker was able to generate 60 to 65 percent of its coke needs.

"We had already been buying from other people," Johnsen said.

Geneva will purchase future coke needs from third-party suppliers. The company at one time operated four coke batteries. One of those batteries was shut down last year.

The remaining three batteries, which had operated since their inception in the 1940s, will be shut down this week. As the ovens cool, the refractory brick lining in the ovens will crack.

"It's very unlikely that they could be started up again," Johnsen said.

The three coke batteries, which consist of a number of ovens, were costing the company roughly $500,000 a month to keep on hot-idle status, said Kelly Hansen, financial secretary to Local Union 2701 of the United Steelworkers of America.

In November, the company announced it was temporarily shutting down operations, resulting in the layoff of 1,164 employees.

By the end of December, only 286 employees remained.


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