THE collapse of North-East steelmaking may claim another victim after a quarry firm revealed plans to mothball a factory.

About 40 workers face an anxious Christmas after Lhoist confirmed the future of its plant at Thrislington, near Ferryhill, County Durham, is unclear.

The company has blamed the demise of SSI UK’s Redcar works, coupled with woes in the wider steel sector, for the decision.

Lhoist’s plant produces dolime, which is used to make steel.

However, the company, which is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of lime, dolime and minerals to various industries, says the steel industry’s problems are having a real effect on operations.

Cedric de Vicq, Lhoist UK managing director, said its 40 members of staff are now going through a consultation process, alongside management and unions, adding he hoped some workers could be retained.

He said: “Demand for dolime from Thrislington has drastically reduced since the closure of steel manufacturing plants in this region.

“All members of staff will go through a collective consultation process and we are looking at opportunities to retain staff where possible.”

Lhoist last year bought Steetley Dolomite, which it said would allow it to supply dolime to UK steel makers for the first time by using the Thrislington site.

At the time, Ludwig de Mot, Lhoist Europe’s chief executive, said: “Being a family-owned mining company with a long term perspective, we are committed to the continued development of Steetley.

“We are attracted by its strong asset base and know-how in the production of special dolime grades, which makes a great complement to our existing operations.”

Lhoist’s base sits on land shared with Tarmac, which runs a quarry at Thrislington.

Tarmac’s operations will not be affected in the changes.

The potential job losses at Lhoist are another blow to the region’s employment landscape, which is still reeling from SSI’s demise.

Its failure triggered a flurry of North-East job losses, with about 1,700 former SSI workers having now been made redundant.

The supply chain has also been significantly hit, with a number of companies warning of cuts.

PD Ports, which oversaw delivery of Redcar-made steel slab to foreign customers from Teesport, was one of those affected, with talks understood to be continuing with staff.

County Durham coal and transport firm Hargreaves Services and Redcar’s Peterson Engineering have also had to pare back their workforces.

Elsewhere, Caparo Industries’ Hartlepool foundry closed with the loss of nearly 100 jobs, after parts of the firm entered administration.