SAULT STE. MARIE -- Algoma Steel is marking a major milestone in its shift towards achieving long-term sustainability.

Algoma Steel has added an arc furnace to its second ladle metallurgical facility (No. 2 LMF), which it said is important to commissioning the refinery.

"It improves our quality, it improves our throughput and it really increases the capacity, so very positive on many fronts for our business," said Mike McQuade, Algoma Steel CEO.

McQuade said the arc will help the company ramp up its production numbers, as well as improve how its No. 1 LMF performs, specifically in terms of capacity.

It's also part of a commitment the company made in 2018 to invest heavily in upgrading the facility's capacity and grade capabilities.

However, some of that was slowed down earlier into the pandemic.

"Since that time, we have seen robust demand, increasing prices," McQuade said. "So you have a better outlook on the market in general."

The Canadian Steel Producers Association said the industry as a whole has seen some hardships in the last several years.

'A tremendous sign'

"To see investment taking place in the steel industry after what we've been through over the last several years is actually a tremendous sign in a shift in momentum," said association president Catherine Cobden.

Cobden said recovery throughout the pandemic has so far taken shape "nicely." However, she said there's still plenty of uncertainty.

"Not all markets have returned to their pre-pandemic levels," she said. "But overall, we're moving in the right direction."

Sault Ste. Marie's chamber of commerce said that direction, specifically in relation to Algoma Steel, will help bring the city and the company to a higher stage in the international market.

"That means the jobs that they supply to this community, the supply chains they use from this community, are all going to stay in place and be enhanced," said Rory Ring, chamber CEO. "We know there's been a significant job loss in those sectors that's been hardest hit and now we're looking at investments of retraining the workforce, as well."

Algoma Steel said its next target is to make upgrades at its plate mill facility.