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Proposed steel mill down, but not out

GREEN TOWNSHIP — Plans to build a proposed $1 billion steel mill along the eastern edge of Scioto County are still alive, even with a sour economy, a weakening demand for product and the mill’s original financial backing drying up, a leading Scioto County official said Tuesday.

Bob Walton Sr., of the Southern Ohio Port Authority said Tuesday that despite growing skepticism, the consulting and engineering firm of New Steel International is still determined to construct a steel mill on 750 acres near Haverhill.

If completed, the proposed electric-arc mill would center on making and customizing steel for use in the chassis of cars and trucks. Estimates have the mill employing at least 500.

The skepticism comes from a continued lack of financing for the project. In August 2008, Russian steelmaker Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, also known as MMK, started withdrawing from the project following the Russia-Georgia conflict, Walton said.

MMK was to have been the operational arm of the mill.

Added to that was a global credit crunch and slashes in production by nearly every automaker that was intended to be the mill’s customer base.

Since then, Walton says New Steel International has been shopping the world to finance the project to no luck.

“Based on the economy, it’s been very, very difficult,” Walton said. “Like every other company, they have been trying to ride out this recession.”

Walton said he, along with other Scioto County officials, have been in contact with NSI on a regular basis. Asked if NSI would abandon the plan if financing could not be secured in the either the short or long term, Walton said he was confident some sort of financing would happen.

“There is a great deal of value in what had already been accomplished so far,” Walton said.

One of the accomplishments Walton discussed was the wastewater permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency for the site.

Officials with NSI were unable to be reached for comment. An employee at the Scioto County Economic Development Office said executive director Steve Carter was on vacation and was not available.