Despite last minute efforts, work at the Teesside Cast Product site of the Tatas-owned Corus steel plant in Redcar came to a grinding halt yesterday leading to a loss of 1,600 jobs.
Hopes of an 11th hour deal to stop the partial shutdown of the plant faded last night and unions warned they are preparing to ballot members in response.
Corus is blaming the mothballing on an international consortium, which pulled out of a contract halfway through a ten-year deal.
Corus issued a statement saying it would partially start mothballing steelworks on Saturday.
"This is the direct result of the decision in April 2009 by a consortium of four customers responsible for almost 80 per cent of the plant's business to renege on a binding 10-year contract.
"Since then, Corus has worked tirelessly to find an alternative long-term solution for Teesside Cast Products," it said.
"There has been speculation about potential last minute bidders for the plant. Corus' position remains unchanged. This is a mothballing, not a permanent closure. TCP will be kept ready for a restart. Corus remains open to credible offers for TCP," the statement said.
Keith Hazlewood of the GMB-- the workers union said, "I have written to our general secretary seeking permission to ballot our members in the steel industry."