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Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon.

Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon has defended the restart of Nu-Iron Unlimited’s operations on Monday by saying the company is one of the country’s important exporters.

Gopee-Scoon who toured the Nu-Iron plant in Point Lisas in 2016 told the Guardian on Tuesday that Nu-Iron Unlimited, which produces inputs for steel is a strategic manufacturer and everything it produces is exported to its parent company in the United States.

She noted it was the Ministry of Health that gave the final approval for the restart of operations.

On Monday, CNC3 host Hema Ramkissoon, in an interview with Karen Nunez-Teshiera, a former Finance Minister, raised the question of why these companies were allowed to reopen before other manufacturers.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in his Saturday announcement of a phased reopening of the economy said that from Monday, Nu-Iron, Witco and Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) would have been allowed to reopen.

The prime minister had explained, “Because of our position in the international market place, we have taken the position, the Minister has granted the approval for the tobacco export business Witco to resume operations largely for export. We have the approval for TCL and Nu Iron. Those three businesses have been granted approval for startup. For Nu-Iron, we have been running without production for the last two months. We think it is time that they go into production.”

Assuming that there is no major spike in COVID-19 cases, the rest of the manufacturing industry will be allowed to re-open on May 24 during Phase Two of the reopening.

Nu-Iron Unlimited which began operations in T&T in 2006 is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nucor Corporation based in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States.

They are part of the steelmaking industry and they produce Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) which is melted and processed into steel. Nu-Iron Unlimited is the largest shipper of cold DRI in the world.

Nucor and affiliates are manufacturers of iron and steel products and Nucor is North America’s largest recycler.

For the first quarter of 2020, Nucor reported consolidated net earnings of US $20.3 million on sales of 5.62 million. However, the report stated that a loss in the second quarter of the financial year is likely.

“The global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has touched the lives of almost everyone in some way, and we would be remiss not to acknowledge the physical, mental and emotional toll so much of the world is experiencing,” said Leon Topalian, Nucor’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

They commented on their T&T operations in the Report, “In all these jurisdictions, Nucor has been deemed an essential or life-sustaining operation. Accordingly, we are maintaining production operations sufficient to meet our customers’ ongoing needs. Our direct reduced iron (‘DRI’) facility in Trinidad stopped production on March 30 to comply with the country’s stay-at-home orders. Our DRI facility in Louisiana halted production on April 2 in response to market conditions and out of concern for the health and safety of our teammates in an area of the country that has experienced a particularly aggressive outbreak of COVID-19 cases.”

In 2018 it was reported that Nu-Iron Unlimited had an interest in acquiring the now-defunct Arcelor Mittal plant in Point Lisas, however, another group of companies eventually won the bid.