The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, will lay the foundation of the Rs. 9,600-crore greenfield modernisation and expansion programme of IISCO Steel Plant (ISP) of the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) at Burnpur in West Bengal on 24th December 2006. The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, and the Prime Minister’s Cabinet colleagues Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilisers and Steel, and Mr. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, will grace the momentous occasion with their presence. The expansion of ISP is an integral part of SAIL’s growth plan to produce 23 million tonnes of hot metal by 2010.
Installation of state-of-the-art environment-friendly and energy-efficient steel making technology, as envisaged in the expansion programme, will help ISP multiply its crude steel production capacity from the present 0.5 million tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes by the year 2010. Among the new facilities that will be installed as part of ISP’s expansion are a large-volume blast furnace, coke oven battery, two sinter plants, three converters with continuous billet and beam blank/bloom casters, heavy section mill of 0.6 million tonne capacity and wire rod & bar mill of 1.2 million tonne capacity. Besides increase in steel production, the new facilities will provide the plant with a competitive edge in terms of manpower productivity and other techno-economic parameters like blast furnace productivity, coke rate, energy consumption, etc.
The event has a momentous significance for the people of West Bengal’s Durgapur-Asansol industrial belt, once called the Ruhr of India and the dreamchild of the state’s first Chief Minister Dr. B.C. Roy. They have waited for several decades for the revival of the Burnpur-based plant which was once Bengal’s pride. The erstwhile Indian Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. (IISCO), which owned this plant, was a blue-chip company during the initial post-Independence years and had its shares traded on the London Stock Exchange. Gradually its fortunes declined sharply, resulting in a serious setback for Bengal’s industrial heritage.
The management of IISCO was taken over by the Government of India in 1972. The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of SAIL in 1978-79. Since then SAIL has been supporting this unit through various means, including financial support and procurement of imported coal, to sustain its operations. However, IISCO continued to be in the red due to high cost of operations stemming from its obsolete technology, aging equipment with low productivity, and a large workforce and became a BIFR company in 1994.
IISCO’s fortunes turned around in 2003-04, following implementation of a revival plan formulated by SAIL and approved by the Government of India.
ISP was born In February 2006, following the amalgamation of IISCO with SAIL. The Burnpur-based ISP has the capacity to produce 4.26 lakh tonnes of saleable steel, mainly structurals and bars & rods, and 2.54 lakh tonnes of pig iron annually. The plant also produces a large number of special steel sections used for fabrication of rail wagons and for construction of barrages, bridges, etc.