* Blast furnace annual capacity is 2.4 million tonnes
* Says new tariffs, labor agreement should reduce costs
Jan 9 (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, will restart blast furnace B at its Gijón plant in Spain on Jan. 15 after a six-month shutdown for maintenance works amid weak market conditions, the company said on Wednesday.
The steelmaker said the decision to restart the furnace was prompted by a recent agreement on tariffs reached with the port of Gijón, expectations of new electricity tariffs, and an agreement with unions that introduces more flexible labor conditions and a labor cost reduction.
“All these measures have contributed to reinforcing the competitiveness of the products manufactured by the Spanish units of the company, improving their ability to access export markets in a context marked by a drop of more than 25 percent in steel consumption in southern Europe, a situation which is further aggravated in Spain by the collapse of the construction sector and severe decline in private consumption,” the steel producer said in a statement.
Blast furnace B at the Gijón plant has annual production capacity of 2.4 million tonnes of steel.
Earlier Wednesday, Luxemburg-based ArcelorMittal said it would also restart a blast furnace in northern France later this month in response to a slight increase in steel demand in Europe due to restocking among customers.
ArcelorMittal employees 11,000 workers in Spain.