Niagara Falls silicon plant to close Sunday, idling 100

Dec 28, 2018

Ferroglobe PLC has announced plans to shut down its Niagara Falls plant, idling 100 employees effective Sunday.

In a statement Thursday, the silicon manufacturer said it is suspending operations at the Highland Avenue facility in a move to expand its "operational flexibility" globally," effective Dec. 30.

“The decision to suspend production at the Niagara Falls plant was difficult given the unquestioned commitment of the plant’s employees,” said Pedro Larrea, Chief Executive Officer of the London, England-based manufacturer. “The shutdown of this facility follows our recent announcement regarding the evaluation of various production adjustments to optimize utilization rates and logistics to customers, and to maximize economic efficiency across our global platform. This action is an example of the operational flexibility that is critical to quickly addressing changes in the markets we serve. We will work closely with our customers to transition their product demand seamlessly to other Ferroglobe sites in North America.”

Ferroglobe PLC, operating in Niagara Falls as Globe Metallurgical, describes itself as the world’s leading producer of silicon metal. It said the closing announcement was made in compliance with New York's Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

"Private sector employers in New York State that employ more than 50 are required to issue a WARN notice 90 days before closing a plant," says the state labor Department. "They must also notify when there is a layoff that affects 33 percent of the workforce (at least 25 workers) or 250 workers from a single employment site. They must send the notice to employees, their representatives, the State Labor Department and local workforce partners."

The federal WARN Act requires only 60 days notice.

The company said its Niagara Falls facility was originally built in the 1900s as Pittsburg Metallurgical.

"It is the oldest operating alloy plant in the country," according to ferroglobe's website. "Sold in 1968 to Airco Alloys and then sold again in 1979 to SKW. In 1994 the plant was purchased by Globe Metallurgical and then acquired by Globe specialty Metals, Inc. in 2006."

The plant has two submerged arc furnaces, with production capacity of up to 27,000 tons of silicon metal annually. A new laboratory was built on site in 2009.

In November, Ferroglobe announced another quarter of financial losses. On Dec. 24, it announced the sale of hydro plants in its Spanish subsidiary and a "B+ with negative outlook" credit rating assigned by Standard and Poor's Financial Services.