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Liquidator sets auction date for Sparrows Point

The Sparrows Point steel mill will be auctioned in January if buyers don’t step forward for all or part of the property, liquidator Hilco Industrial said Tuesday.

Bids are due by Dec. 21, and an auction will be held Jan. 3 if necessary with a closing date no later than Jan. 11, the company said in materials posted online. Officials want to make sure potential operators have plenty of time to bid, said Hilco spokesman Gary Epstein.

Interested buyers can “purchase and operate one or more independent steel production lines or the entire Sparrows Point mill without being the landowner of the underlying property,” Hilco said, adding that buyers will not be liable for past environmental contamination at the site.

A federal bankruptcy judge approved the $72 million sale of the Sparrows Point steel mill last month to Hilco and its partner, Environmental Liability Transfer.

Buyers can also remove production line equipment from the site, Hilco said.

The mill in southeastern Baltimore County employed more than 2,000 before RG Steel filed for bankruptcy, and employees have been hoping the liquidators would find buyers interested in operating the mill again instead of dismantling it. Hilco is advertising the mill on its website as one of the world’s largest steel mills with rare access to a deepwater port.

RG Steel, the nation’s fourth-largest, flat-rolled steel manufacturer, sought bankruptcy protection in late May, citing financial struggles stemming from low steel prices and high raw material costs. RG Steel acquired the former Bethlehem Steel mill from Russian-owned Severstal North America in 2011 in a $1.2 billion deal that also included plants in West Virginia and Ohio.

Attorneys for Hilco and Environmental Liability have agreed to establish a $500,000 escrow fund to pay for offshore investigation of water contamination at the mill and assume RG Steel’s obligations under a water-quality monitoring agreement with environmental regulators.