Strike Cuts Mittal’s Coal Output

Customers not affected as production increases in other countries.

Karaganda, Kazakhstan (AP) — A weeklong strike at Mittal Steel NV’s coal mines in Kazakhstan has led to a 30 percent decline in daily steel output at the company’s giant Temirtau mill, a senior executive from the plant said Tuesday.

“The plant is totally dependent on coal supplied by our mines,” Victor Sherba, director of technical innovation and customer relations, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Sherba said the decrease had not affected customers because it was offset by production increases in other countries where Mittal operates, such as Poland and Romania.

Also Tuesday, Mittal replaced its chief executive officer in Kazakhstan as the international steel giant’s talks with coal miners at its metal and mining complex in the Central Asian nation remained deadlocked.

The new CEO, Narendra Choudhary, was introduced to labor activists and pledged to start talks with steelworkers on raising their wages, said trade union leader Vladimir Dubin.

The company’s coal department managers Tuesday walked out of separate talks with coal miners, saying that they have “nothing more to discuss,” according to the coal miners’ trade union leader Vyacheslav Sidorov.

Workers have long alleged that Mittal, which runs 61 plants in 27 countries, has done little to improve labor and safety conditions since taking over Kazakhstan’s largest metal factory and the mines that fuel it 11 years ago.

The coal miners have been striking for a week, while steelworkers have been holding talks with the management over wages for two months. The standoff escalated after 41 miners were killed last month in a methane gas explosion.

Mittal Steel Temirtau’s eight mines were not producing coal on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the company, which consumes 20,000 tons of coal a day, has used up about a half of its coal reserves to maintain production, the management said.

About 1,000 workers protested outside the company’s office building in the mining town of Shakhtinsk.

More than 6,000 metal and coal workers rallied Saturday to press for their demands in Temirtau, in the central Karaganda region, the ex-Soviet republic’s industrial heartland.

More in Operations