UPDATE 1-ArcelorMittal closing two Belgian furnaces-unions


* Potential for 1,000 job losses - unions* ArcelorMittal declines to comment (Updates with union leader comments)BRUSSELS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - ArcelorMittal (ISPA.AS) has decided to permanently close its two blast furnaces near the eastern Belgian city of Liege in part due to the worsening economic situation, union leaders said on Wednesday.Union leaders said ArcelorMittal’s local bosses had announced that the two blast furnaces, one idled since 2008, the other since August, and a foundry would be closed down.A meeting of the works council had been called for 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Thursday.One union leader said he estimated that some 500 employees could lose their jobs, a figure that could rise to 1,000 when contractors and ancillary staff are included. He added that the remaining steel activities of ArcelorMittal near Liege might not be viable.ArcelorMittal declined to comment.A number of workers at the plant have already been temporarily laid off as weakening demand for steel had led the company to idle production.Workers at the plant in Liege held six executives against their will for 48 hours in protest over the temporary closures. [ID:nL5E7L5479]The Luxembourg-based company, the world’s largest steelmaker, told investors last month that it would weather a possible recession better than in 2008/2009 because of savings made to date, a healthier balance sheet and its expansion into mines. [ID:nLDE78M02I]In recent months, the company has also idled blast furnaces in Florange, France, and Eisenhuettenstadt, Germany.


UPDATE 1-ArcelorMittal confirms closures at Liege site


The company confirmed the news on Friday after union leaders said late on Wednesday that the group’s local bosses had announced that the two blast furnaces, one idled since 2008, the other since August, and a foundry would be closed down.The talks leading up to the closure were difficult and at one stage disgruntled union representatives prevented six members of the Liege management from leaving the building, where talks were held for 48 hours.ArcelorMittal said it faced structural over-capacity in Northern Europe, given a difficult European market.In recent months, the group also idled blast furnaces in Florange, France, and Eisenhuettenstadt, Germany.”The liquid phase in Liege is still not competitive enough under foreseeable market conditions,” Joao Felix da Silva, CEO of ArcelorMittal Liege, said in a statement on Friday.The company said the decision would not affect its capacity or market share in Europe.Unions estimated that 500 jobs were threatened by the decision.Da Silva said he was convinced that compulsory redundancies could be avoided.Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal told investors last month that it would weather a possible recession better than in 2008/2009 because of savings made to date, a healthier balance sheet and its expansion into mines.