With much of America's steel production being eliminated by the global market, Weirton's Mittal Steel is shutting down a blast furnace for eight to ten weeks, laying off 700 workers until business picks up.

Mittal, based in The Netherlands, took control of the former Weirton Steel in April with a $4.8 billion dollar deal with International Steel Group of Richfield, Ohio.

Mark Glyptis, president of Weirton's Independent Steelworkers Union, says workers are anxious, but he says Mittal has given the union no reason to fear the shutdown is permanent.

The worry is linked to an announcement made by corporation owner Lakshmi Mittal. He said he wanted to cut Mittal's work force by about 45,000 jobs over five years, most of the jobs being in the US.

At one time, West Virginia's steel industry was the largest employer in the state. Now it is WalMart.

In the past 20 years, several large and small steel companies in the state's northern panhandle have gone under, and in many cases retirees have lost not only their health benefits but their retirement benefits.

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