I’m flattered. Over the last three years I’ve written many blog posts on the silicon metal industry in Iceland, especially in relation to the now-closed-down-and-looking-for-buyer smelter at Helguvik, southwest Iceland, which was formerly owned by United Silicon, and more recently the smelter in the north of Iceland at Bakki, near Husavik, which was/is owned and operated by PCC Bakki.
I’ve been aware that I haven’t blogged for a while, which normally means that few will read my blog posts. But there has been a massive increase over the last six days (not including the weekend when readers were zilch) of people reading two out of my last three posts, especially the one called Silicon metal smelters in Iceland – past, present and future, which was written in early June, but also PCC Bakki silicon metal smelter to close, which was written on June 29.
Initially, most of the readers were Polish, and the CEO at PCC Consumer Products in Poland also viewed my LinkedIn profile that day. But now most of the readers are from Germany, where the mother company is based. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s nice to be noticed by the business.
Previously, most of the people who were following my silicon metal blogs were Americans protesting about the construction of a silicon metal smelter in their locality.
Meanwhile, more news.
News on the mother company’s news website, dated July 31, states that the second furnace was switched off on July 26 and that “rehabilitation of the roof construction of the plant’s filter house by the plant constructor” will be carried out. But the news item also says:
At the same time, the qualification of our goods is to be promoted among additional potential customers and, with the support of PCC SE, commercial improvements are to be negotiated on both the purchasing and the sales side. All these measures should help to sustainably strengthen the earnings situation of PCC BakkiSilicon hf. after restarting the plant.
The plant is expected to restart as soon as possible but this will depend to a large extent on how the silicon metal market develops, which has plummeted because of the covid 19 restrictions and the associated global economic slowdown. In the meantime, at least in China, there is a slight recovery in silicon metal prices. The sustainability of this upward trend remains to be seen in the coming weeks.
Note the term “plummeted”. PCC in Iceland said they hoped to start up the smelter operation again within 6-9 months of its shutdown. But since then COVID has re-emerged in force (though in some countries it never died down), and is expected to remain with us for some time. I doubt that the coronavirus will have disappeared by next spring. The longer PCC Bakki have to wait before restarting – if they ever do, which is not a given – the harder it will be. They hope to hire again the employees they laid off, but I can’t see much chance of that happening. From the point of view of the employees, it’s too uncertain.
Meanwhile, in Helguvik renovations have been done on the former silicon metal plant in the hope that it will make the smelter more sellable. But as silicon metal prices have “plummeted” due to lack of demand, it’s not at all likely that the smelter will ever be sold. Added to which, the local council are against it and the Environment Agency, which closed down the plant in September 2017, have outlined numerous points (in Icelandic) that need to be remedied – and even then they don’t seem convinced that problems will not crop up.