U.S. Steel to "indefinitely idle' portion of Great Lakes Works facilities across river near Detroit

U.S. Steel to "indefinitely idle' portion of Great Lakes Works facilities across river near Detroit

U.S. Steel — the country's second-largest and the world's 26th-largest steel manufacturer — announced on Thursday plans to "indefinitely idle" portions of its Great Lakes Works facilities near Detroit, Mich. 

According to a media release, the company expects to begin idling its iron and steelmaking facilities "on or around" April 1, 2020. The company will also begin idling its Hot Strip Mill rolling facility "before the end of 2020."

A spokesperson for U.S. Steel confirmed that the company's blast furnaces on Zug Island will be impacted, adding that the company "no longer [owns] all the equipment on the island."

Approximately 1,500 employees will be issued Worker Adjustment and Retraining  Act notices, though the company estimates the final numbers of affected employees will be lower. 

The Great Lakes Works Pickle Line, Cold Mill, Sheet Temper mill, Continuous Galvanizing Line, Annealing and Warehouses operations will all remain in operation "in line with customer demand," according to U.S. Steel. 

Company president and CEO David Burritt said there are plans to transition production currently at Great Lakes Works to Gary Works in Indiana.

The company said the idling of portions of the Great Lakes Works facility is part of the company's strategy to become a "best of both" company "by combining leading integrated and mini-mill steel technology."

"We are conscious of the impact this decision will have on our employees, their families, and the local community, and we are announcing it now to provide them with as much time as possible to prepare for this transition," said Burritt, in the same Thursday media release. "These decisions are never easy, nor are they taken lightly.  However, we must responsibly manage our resources while also strengthening our company's long-term future – a future many stakeholders depend on."

Burritt added that the company will take additional steps in the coming weeks and months to help affected employees "providing additional education about benefits available through our company, as well as community resources."

Combined with investments in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Arkansas announced earlier this year, U.S. Steel said idling some of the Great Lakes Works facility will allow the company to reach its "voluntary goal of a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 2030."

According to Derek Coronado, coordinator of the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Great Lakes Works has been running "afoul" of environmental enforcement agencies for a while.

"At some point they had to say it may not be worth it anymore," said Coronado. "There's a whole list of air emissions that come from that facility ... All the things that people can't see. Those emissions have been going on for many years."

U.S. Steel's Zug Island facility has previously been described as the source of the so-called 'Windsor Hum.'

A federally funded report released in 2014 linked the source of the mysterious noise to Zug Island, which is part of River Rouge, Mich.