* Lisco's power plant provides energy to Misrata
* Steel melting expected to restart in April
* Lisco to receive iron ore from Samarco, import billet soon
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Libya's state-owned steelmaker Lisco will restart part of its steel production operations next week and expects to resume steel melting in April if the energy supply to the city of Misrata is restored, a company official said on Wednesday.
The company had to suspend operations almost a year ago due to conflicts that later saw Libya's former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, overthrown, captured and killed.
"We are re-heating the HBI (Hot briquetted iron) plant and one rolling mill," Lisco's foreign marketing manager Ali Abumais said in a telephone interview.
"If everything goes well from a technical point of view we should restart producing HBI at the beginning of next week and rebar at the end of next week."
HBI is used in electric arc furnaces as a raw material for steel production while rebar is a long steel product used for construction.
Resuming the steel melting process will take some more time, however, as it is an energy intensive process and Lisco does not dispose of enough energy at present in Misrata, where it is based, on the coast east of Tripoli.
"The conflict caused a lot of damage in Misrata and our power plant is currently supplying energy to the city so it can't be used for steel melting," Abumais said.
"Once Misrata is connected once again to the country's energy network we can start melting again. If electricity is restored at the end of March, we will restart melting operations in April at the earliest."
The steelmaker's production capacity was about 1.3 million tonnes of crude steel per year before its closure but it had already carried out some upgrade works that need to be finalized and that will boost capacity to 1.7-1.8 million tonnes.
In the last few months, the it has stockpiled some iron ore and billet, a semifinished steel product that is processed into rebar.
It is also expecting to receive some cargoes of iron ore from Brazilian supplier Samarco, the world's second-largest exporter of iron-ore pellets, between the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter, when the melting operations are expected to restart.
Lisco will also start importing some billet soon, Abumais said. Turkey and the CIS are its main billet suppliers. (Editing by Anthony Barker)