Concerns are growing for 50 jobs at the Premier Periclase magnesium oxide and hydroxide products production plant in Drogheda.

Unions representing staff at the business, which exited examinership in May, say they have been told by its owners that they may have to suspend operations because of soaring energy costs.

A consultation period between management and workers is currently underway, but the company said it has not yet taken any decisions about the scale or timing of potential redundancies.

The County Louth company uses seawater and limestone to produce a range of products that are used in a wide variety of applications including the manufacture of refractory linings for the steel, cement, glass and non-ferrous metal industries, agricultural, chemical and environmental industries.

However, it also uses large amounts of gas as part of its processes, the price of which has rapidly increased in recent months due to the war in Ukraine.

Trade unions Unite and Connect have written to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to ask him to intervene in order to save the jobs at the plant.

Unite Regional Coordinating Officer, Tom Fitzgerald, said any decision by the plant's new owners to suspend operations in the face of spiraling energy costs would not only impact on the workers concerned and on the local economy, but would also mean the loss of strategic skills and manufacturing capacity which, once gone, would be difficult to recover.

The unions want the Government to explore whether under the EU’s State Aid Temporary Crisis Framework it might be possible to provide support to energy and trade intensive industrial businesses.

They also want an Energy Support Taskforce to be set up to develop a scheme similar to one approved in Germany under the EU rules.

"In July, the Commission approved a €5 billion German scheme to support energy and trade intensive companies across industrial sectors in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and it is clear that an Energy Support Taskforce to develop a similar scheme is urgently required in Ireland," said Connect Regional Official, Tom Faulkner.

"Pending development of such a scheme, however, Premier Periclase requires immediate assistance to avert a closure."

In a statement, the company said it has been in communication with Unite, other union and non-union representatives, along with representatives from Enterprise Ireland, Ibec, the Tánaiste's office, the Environmental Protection Agency and a local TD to request assistance.

"The Directors support all efforts by the Unions to secure central government support to protect all jobs," director Geoff Angus said.

"We are in a consultation period and as such no decisions have been taken regarding the scale or timing of potential redundancies."

In December, the High Court appointed an examiner to the company after it ran into financial difficulties because of the dramatic rise in the price of gas.

The court approved a survival scheme for the firm in May, allowing it to exit the examinership process.

Under the scheme, the company received fresh investment and developed plans to switch from the use of gas to renewable energy sources, a process that was to take 18 months.

Around 40 staff at the firm were also made redundant.

Unions believe that because it is one of just a small few independent producers of seawater magnesium, which could be in significant demand in the future for a range of new products, Premier Periclase holds significant potential.