By CASEY JUNKINS
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
MINGO JUNCTION, Ohio — Almost eight years after Russian firm OAO Severstal shuttered the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. mill in Mingo Junction, new hot metal should soon roll out of the facility that is now known as ACERO Junction.
“We are working on it. We hope to start making our products available to the customer the first week of February,” Jateen Kapoor, a senior management member of ACERO Junction, said Thursday.
A video posted to Facebook late Wednesday seems to show new hot steel rolling through the mill, while an accompanying photo appears to show a new coil being moved on a crane. The images posted may have depicted a test prior to an official restart.
Throughout Thursday, the video and photo generated plenty of conversation regarding activity at the mill.
The person who posted the video and photo could not be reached for comment. Kapoor said he was unaware of the post, while Jefferson County Port Authority Executive Director Evan Scurti declined to comment on it.
“I am in frequent interaction with the company. They are still in the ramp-up stage,” Scurti said Thursday. “Hopefully, they can have an opening and sell the products soon.”
Officials have said the new steel operation could ultimately employ as many as 350 workers. The plant includes an 80-inch (width) hot strip mill and a $115 million electric arc furnace that was installed in 2004.
The Mingo facility was part of the former Wheeling-Pitt, which Sewickley, Pa.-based Esmark Inc. acquired in 2006. Severstal closed the Mingo mill in 2009 after purchasing it and the other Wheeling-Pitt properties from Esmark in 2008.
Severstal later sold the Wheeling-Pitt assets to RG Steel, which declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter. This allowed Buffalo, N.Y.-based Frontier Industrial to purchase the entire Mingo plant — including the electric arc furnace — for $20 million in 2012. Frontier has since demolished most of the older portions of the plant to sell the metal as scrap.
“We saw the potential in the Mingo site beyond just asset recovery, demolition, scrapping or leveling the site for redevelopment. A sale was always at the center of our strategy,” Craig Slater, Frontier vice president and general counsel, said upon announcing the transfer to ACERO Junction.
Mingo Junction Village Councilman Michael Herrick said the news of the imminent restart is welcome for the community that has struggled since the plant closed in 2009.
“We will have more tax money coming in to support the community. It is great that people are going to have a chance to have a good job,” Herrick said. “We’ve had to raise water bills on the the residents, which they didn’t like, but I have to give them credit for having faith in us.”
A longtime educator and area native, Herrick said he can remember when the Mingo mill employed thousands of workers in the 1970s. Herrick said his father and brothers worked at the plant, while he often worked at the nearby Steubenville plant during the summers.
“I can remember seeing the smoke rolling out of the stacks when I was 3 years old,” he said. “It’s great that we’re going to start to see some steel made in the U.S. again.”
Herrick said he served as head football coach at Mingo High School from 1981 until its consolidation with Wintersville High School formed Indian Creek High School in 1993. The pillars to the school’s former football field remain in place, just to the west of the plant.
“It’s what our community was known for,” Herrick said of the mill.
Herrick also said there is plenty of room for more business to operate in the former plant area, a sentiment Frontier Special Project Director Christopher Wietig shares.
“As demand for industrial space with rail access grows stronger, we are working with several potential users for the lease or sale of the southern property at Mingo Junction,” Wietig said. “We believe the restart of the steel plant will be a catalyst for repurposing and redevelopment of the balance of the vacant land at the Mingo site.”
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