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Samancor fires up furnaces

Molten ferrochrome
at one of Samancor’s
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 07 May 2009 – Samancor Chrome Limited – the world’s second-largest producer of ferrochrome – has re-started output from some of the furnaces that it suspended last year because of the substantial drop in demand in the wake of the global financial crisis.

“We have restarted some operations,” spokeswoman Sunel Pretorius told Bloomberg News by telephone from here. She was not immediately able to say which furnaces had been restarted, nor how much of the stainless-steel ingredient would be produced. “Further details will be provided later,” she said.

Producers of ferrochrome – which is used to prevent corrosion in stainless steel – have suspended more than two-thirds of world output capacity, according to Merafe Resources Limited, as the global economic slowdown erodes demand for steel. Samancor – based in Johannesburg – suspended all output last year.

Prices of the metal will average 74 cents a pound this year, down 58% from 2008 as stainless-steel production shrinks 15%, said the Macquarie Group Limited in a report. “A recovery in the market for ferrochrome is fundamentally challenged by idled output capacity and Chinese ore stockpiles,” Macquarie added.

Hernic Ferrochrome Limited – which shut down its last four furnaces in January – says that it has re-started some production to swell inventories on signs of revived demand from Asia.

Merafe – which along with Switzerland’s Xstrata Plc operates the world’s largest ferrochrome producer – says first-quarter output declined 76% as smelters were idled in response to weak demand.