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Steel with foreign funds NRI proposes Rs 500-cr plant

Calcutta, April 27: A non-resident Bengali could bring to the state its first foreign direct investment (FDI) in steel.

Singapore-based Buddhadeb Chatterjee has proposed to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation a 500,000-tonne plant in West Midnapore at an investment of Rs 500 crore.

Chatterjee told The Telegraph that his company — Natural Resource Pte — would use Chinese technology.

Shandong Metallurgical Research Institute of China, which is likely to provide the technology, is also expected to invest in the project.

The unit will come up in phases. The first — to be operational in 18 months from the start of the groundwork — will produce 350,000 tonnes of pig iron, an input for steel.

Wire rods and TMT bars, which are used in construction, will be produced in the second phase.

“The project will be funded by foreign debt and equity,” said Chatterjee.

Natural Resource, which has a turnover of $100 million — about Rs 410 crore — is now involved in iron ore and coke trading between India and China. Chatterjee owns three coke oven factories in India — two in Orissa and one at Kharagpur in Bengal.

“My experience with Bengal has been very good so far. I bought a closed unit. It turned around in good time,” he said.

The steel project is almost a natural follow-up to the coke oven unit, which produces metallurgical coke used in steel making.

If the steel plant comes up, Chatterjee plans to relocate the Orissa units to Bengal.

He plans to procure iron ore from Jharkhand and sees no problem in doing that. “We will buy iron ore fines (dust), which are mostly exported to China.”

The Chinese specialise in making steel from fines.

The Jindals are planning to take the same route for the Rs 35,000-crore project in West Midnapore’s Salboni.

Fines are available in ab- undance, which allows companies to set up a steel plant without having to own iron ore mines.

Natural Resource has identified 500 acres at Khemashuli, near Kharagpur, for the plant.

Chatterjee said he was willing to buy the land directly from its owners. “There is hardly any cultivation there. A large portion is used for stone mining,” he said.

The project — if it materialises — might beat much ta-lked about and bigger plans by Posco and Mittal Steel in being the first steel FDI in the region.

Besides Jindal, Indian companies such as Bhushan Steel and Jai Balaji Group are investing in the state.

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