Martins Ferry’s RG plant remains idle

MARTINS FERRY – A rich and proud history of steelmaking may have come to an end for Martins Ferry, as the RG Steel plant sits quiet following its recent $2 million purchase by Quay Mull and Joseph N. Gompers.

“I had a lot of family members and friends work there. I hope something can be done there that will help put some people back to work,” said Belmont County Auditor Andy Sutak, a Martins Ferry native.

Sutak said with the Marcellus and Utica shale natural gas industry burgeoning in Ohio and West Virginia, the land’s location along the Ohio River – along with the nearby rail and highway access – should make it attractive to some type of drilling-related business.

“I would really hate to see it just torn down and gutted,” he added.

A Thursday visit to the plant showed no activity at the facility. Following RG Steel’s bankruptcy last year, the company liquidated the assets of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. A deed on file in the Belmont County Recorder’s Office shows that Wheeling businessmen Mull and Gompers purchased the Martins Ferry RG site for $2 million.

Both Mull and Gompers have been unavailable for comment regarding their plans for the property.

Esmark Inc. – which recently purchased the former RG Yorkville mill with plans to revitalize it as the Ohio Cold Rolling Co. – acquired all the former Wheeling-Pitt facilities in 2006 before selling them to Russian steelmaker OAO Severstal for $1.23 billion in 2008. Severstal later sold these plants to RG, which liquidated the assets last year.

A separate deed filed in Belmont County in November shows that RG sold some of its riverfront land in Yorkville and Martins Ferry to the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. for $750,000.

“The land is mainly closer to Yorkville. We hope to see it used for transportation,” said Railway Director of Real Estate Clarence Jaeger.

According to the company’s website, the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co. “began in 1871 with the need for a rail connection between the Wheeling coal fields and Lake Erie port cities and facilities.” The company later moved its main offices to Brewster, Ohio, where they remain today.

In the drilling industry, the website states, the railway has been transporting sand, cement, pipe, equipment and even natural gas liquids, primarily in Pennsylvania.

Another Belmont County deed shows a $500,000 sale of land in Martins Ferry from RG to an entity called Aldiny LLC. This company maintains a mailing address of 117 Edgington Lane in Wheeling, which is also the address of the Gompers & Associates accounting firm.

A final destiny also is yet to be determined for the large Mingo Junction plant, which Frontier Industrial purchased out of the bankruptcy for $20 million. The facility contains the electric arc furnace, which itself cost $115 million in the mid-2000s.

As the Upper Ohio Valley RG plants site idle, portions of the large mill in Sparrows Point, Md., are now about to be demolished and sold.

Though his company’s website states that it specializes in “demolition” and “industrial gutting,” Craig Slater, general counsel and vice president for Frontier, said his crews have removed some “stuff” from the Mingo mill, but nothing vital to the steelmaking process.

He said he hopes to enter an agreement with someone who can operate the plant.

RG sold the old Steubenville plant to a subsidiary of Herman Strauss Inc., a Wheeling-based recycling business. Strauss paid $4.3 million for about 103 acres, plus another $10.7 million for the scrap and machinery.