Algoma Steel celebrates completion of plate mill upgrades

After five years, and plenty of delays, Algoma Steel finally revealed its fully upgraded plate mill to the world on Tuesday.

This roughly $135-million modernization project, which boosts the company's annual shipped plate capacity from 450,000 tons to 650,000 tons, was given the ribbon cutting treatment during a grand opening ceremony that featured the likes of Algoma Steel CEO Michael Garcia and Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker.

"Like many cities driven by industrial businesses, Sault Ste. Marie is all too accustomed to the ebbs and flows of the market," Shoemaker said during Tuesday's ceremony.

"The increased stability that will hopefully stem from initiatives such as the plate mill modernization and the electric arc furnace represents a major positive sign for the future of Algoma Steel and the future of Sault Ste. Marie."

A closer look at Algoma Steel's plate mill during Tuesday's ceremony, which was put together to celebrate the fact that this machinery is now fully upgraded and modernized.
A closer look at Algoma Steel's plate mill during Tuesday's ceremony, which was put together to celebrate the fact that this machinery is now fully upgraded and modernized.

Algoma Steel officially began its plate mill modernization project in 2019, planning to complete these upgrades across two phases.

The first phase, completed in the summer of 2022, focused on quality improvements.

This includes installing a new primary slab de-scaler (to improve surface quality), automated surface inspection system (to detect and map surface quality), an in-line hot leveler (to improves flatness) and automation of the 166-inch plate mill (which expands the company’s grade offering).

The second phase, completed earlier this year, revolved around enhancing productivity. This involved upgrading the onboard descaling system and installing new cooling beds coupling the plate mill and shear line.

Outside of increasing the company's yearly output, these overall upgrades to the plate mill also allow Algoma Steel to enhance ship on-time performance and expand its portfolio to include wider plate products.

Danieli Group, an Italian supplier/contractor that is currently spearheading Algoma's $700 million transition to electric arc steelmaking, was responsible for these plate mill upgrades.

Algoma Steel's plate mill modernization project was originally given a price tag of $120 million and scheduled to be completed in late 2022.

But technical difficulties throughout the first phase of upgrades caused costs to rise and forced the completion date to be pushed back.

Danieli Group even had to pay a $5-million penalty last year in relation to delays that took place during the first phase of this project.

However, Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan opted to focus on the positives following Tuesday's ribbon cutting ceremony, stating that this major investment in plate mill modernization will ensure the long-term viability of Algoma Steel and "good middle-class union jobs" in the region.

"We will continue to stand up for steel - whether it is through modernization projects like the electric arc furnace, or through fighting against foreign dumping," Sheehan said in a Tuesday news release.

"Congratulations on your grand opening, and I wish nothing but continued success for Algoma Steel and your workers!"

Algoma Steel remains the only supplier of discrete plate products in Canada.

These products are used in various industries, including construction, mining, manufacturing, shipbuilding and even the military.

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Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star