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Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. began using a new blast furnace Wednesday at its Kashima steelworks, the first time a Japanese steelmaker has started a new large blast furnace in 25 years.

A ceremony to mark the furnace’s first day was held at the steelworks in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, with the company’s president and the Ibaraki governor attending.

The No. 1 blast furnace, which cost 46 billion yen to build, has a volume of 5,370 cu. meters, the third-largest in Japan and the fourth-biggest in the world.

With the new furnace, the Kashima plant’s combined crude steel production will expand to an annual 8 million tons from 7 million, Sumitomo Metal said.

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