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Antillana Steelworks revitalized

Miguel Solarana, director of the José Martí Metallurgical Enterprise describes a project underway to double steel production, emphasizing the importance of the industry to the national economy


25 de mayo de 2017 - Taken from Granma

Increasing production is the watchword, at the José Martí Metallurgical Enterprise. Established with U.S. capital in 1957, Antillana de Acero, as the steelworks is still popularly known, first produced reinforcing bars for the companies of Cuban oligarchs.

After the triumph of the Revolution, nationalized and put to work for the benefit of the people, the plant produced its first batch of steel made with the modern technology of the era. Shortly thereafter, an agreement was reached with the former Soviet Union and work on five Martin-Siemens ovens was begun.

The accords were implemented in different stages, during which machinery to make steel plates was erected based on technology from the USSR and the German Democratic Republic, with these being among the first to be disassembled, when the socialist camp collapsed in the 1990s.

During that decade, steel production in electric ovens was initiated, since the

Martin-Siemens were out-dated, with repairs becoming increasingly expensive.

Beginning in 2004-2005, problems in the industry emerged given the economic difficulties facing the nation and lack of funds for maintenance. Production at Antillana de Acero fell precipitously.

In 2014, the plant's decline was finally halted and a revitalization began.

ANTILLANA DE ACERO REVITALIZED

With the arrival of Russian credit, a complete modernization of the facilities is being launched. The renovation includes all the companies local branches, as well as railroads serving plants, which total some 50 kilometers.

Improvements to the system for transporting steel products are being made, and all the conduit networks supplying air, nitrogen, and oxygen for the production process will be remodeled.

Since Antillana is La Habana province's largest consumer of water and electricity, the cooling and automated electrical systems are being repaired in their entirety, to ensure that they function more efficiently.

(Photo: Yander Zamora)

Miguel Ángeles Solarana Reyes, director of the José Martí Metallurgical Enterprise, explained that the investment project is being carried out in two stages. Work to be completed in the first, over a period of four to five years, will allow for production to be doubled.

"We should be starting with 140,000 tons, and increasing a certain amount year by year, until we reach 250,000 tons of molten steel. In the case of reinforcing bar, we should be starting next year with some 70,000 tons and gradually increasing to 160,000 tons," Solarana clarified.

In the second phase, another electric oven will be erected, along with another continuous casting machine, allowing for the production of molten steel to increase from 250,000 tons to 420,000.

(Miguel Ángeles Solarana Reyes, director of the José Martí Metallurgical Enterprise highlighted the importance of the industry to the national economy. Photo: Yander Zamora)

The second stage of the investment process will also include another rolling machine for re-bar, allowing the first machine to be used for profiles, angulars, and flats, never before fabricated by the steelworks. Nonetheless, the primary focus will remain on producing reinforcing bar.

Currently, in addition to the production of plates and re-bar, Antillana produces billets, which are blocks of steel used to make reinforcing bar and rods. Every year 40,000 to 50,000 tons of steel billets are exported, mainly to the Axa company located in Honduras, created as a joint venture, affiliated with Cuba's Ministry of Industry and the state enterprise group Gesime.

"The other part of what we produce, we send to the sheet rollers, for national production. We and our steelworker brothers in Las Tunas, together produce all of the country's reinforcing bar," Solarana added.

The plant's re-bar is supplied throughout the island by a distributor and is used in all construction works, including large hotel projects.

(Photo: Yander Zamora)

"We must now begin to export to other places, since we have benefited from Russian investment, production is increasing, and more can be sold," Solarana continued.

Antillana's principal market would be Latin America and the Caribbean, given the infrastructure and logistical support available.

The José Martí Metallurgical Enterprise has a staff of some 1,700 workers. The effort and dedication of every person working for the company is great, the director insists, saying, "We start work here January 3 or 4, and production is halted on the 29th or 30th of December. (for the holidays) There are three daily shifts, and one is taken to rest, without stopping. It is work that requires commitment and is very dangerous. Via a system of wages, we are making progress toward the staff receiving more pay, with better salary benefits."

Given the high risk workers face in the steelworks, there is a polyclinic within the plant and an emergency room. Additionally, the country imports all protective equipment and gear needed.

"The struggle here is not if we have a system of protection or not. It's whether or not workers use the gear. But in the steel producing areas, you have to put it on, no discussion, and wear the equipment, or face a big problem," Solarana explained.

Antillana de Acero is a company that is of great importance to the country, given that its production of re-bar and steel is key to avoiding imports, according to the director.

"This is very important because the importing of reinforcing bar is done via the commodities market, that is, we don't have a contracted price, and prices go up and down, in accordance with market conditions at the time. Plus, if we export flats, we are bringing more money into the national economy.

"A country that produces steel is a developing country. Thus, improving the production of steel in Cuba will clearly improve our possibilities, without a doubt," Solarana concluded.


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