DUNKIRK -- Top global steelmaker ArcelorMittal (IW 1000/35) plans to reopen later this month a blast furnace at one of its French sites that has been shut down for several months, a union source said Tuesday.

The second blast furnace at ArcelorMittal's site at Dunkerque, shut down since August, should resume operations on January 20, said a representative of the CGT union at ArcelorMittal, confirming a report in a local newspaper.

"It is excellent news, even if unfortunately it is connected to the closing of Liege and Florange," said Philippe Collet.

Faced with reduced demand, ArcelorMittal has sought to lower its capacity in low products and has reached a deal with employees at its site in the Belgian city of Liege.

ArcelorMittal dodged in December a threat by the French government to nationalise the company's Florange site over two blast furnaces that the the steelmaker says are no longer financially viable.

The restarting of the Dunkerque blast furnace will bring the facility which employs some 3,000 people back up to full operation, and will in part supply the Florange facility with raw steel for processing.

The blast furnace was originally shut down for maintenance but kept closed due to low demand.

ArcelorMittal said last month steel demand in Europe has fallen by 29 percent since the onset of the global economic crisis and wrote down the value of its European operations by $4.3 billion.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013