C.S. Verma in Calcutta on Saturday. Picture by Kishor Roy ChowdhuryC.S. Verma in Calcutta on Saturday. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury
Calcutta, June 8: Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL) ambitious Rs 6,000-crore plan to build a speciality steel plant at Kulti, Bengal, has hit a land hurdle of a different kind.
The maharatna company is still awaiting transfer of the 850-acre plot even though it enjoys physical possession of the same.
Till then, SAIL is unwilling to commit investment for the project, which is likely to come up in a joint venture with a Japanese major.
“Nothing has been decided. There are options. I cannot talk about it for competitive reasons,” SAIL chairman C.S. Verma said today when asked about the Kulti project.
Verma had hinted at the steel major’s willingness to set up a mega plant in May last year following his meeting with chief minister Mamata Banerjee at Writers’ Buildings.
At that meeting, he had pressed for registration and mutation of the land in SAIL’s name. In December, Verma reiterated his request when he met Mamata in New Delhi where the Bengal government held a closed-door meeting with industry captains.
Apart from Mamata, industries minister Partha Chatterjee, finance minister Amit Mitra and chief secretary Sanjay Mitra were present at that meeting.
The Kulti land was leased out to erstwhile Indian Iron & Steel Co Ltd (IISCO) for 999 years. But after the merger with SAIL in the last decade, IISCO ceased to be a corporate entity. But the title still needs to be transferred to SAIL.
“Before making a huge investment, the title must be clear. We have to take loan from banks who want to create charge on the land,” Verma said.
The chairman, however, didn’t blame the state government for the tardy pace. “The records are old. They are being retrieved. The government is working on it,” he said.
SAIL plans to produce high-grade alloy and special steel for defence, navy and the automobile sector at Kulti. The capacity of the plant is likely to be 1.2 million tonnes.
The vacant land was one of the key reasons why the company was looking at Kulti. The proximity of three SAIL units — a revamped IISCO at Burnpur and the modernised and expanded Durgapur Steel Plant and Alloy Steel Plant — was the other big attraction to consider this place.
Incidentally, SAIL is setting up an iron nugget manufacturing unit with Kobe Steel of Japan in Alloy Steel Plant’s vacant land for Rs 1,500 crore. Environment assessment for the project is on.
This will be the second such project in the world after the one in US. It would take five to six months to complete the environment assessment.
The Rs 16,000-crore modernisation at Burnpur with a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes will be fully commissioned by the end of this year.
Established in 1870, Kulti had a foundry making cast iron and spun products before its shutters went down in April 2003.
Meanwhile, International Coal Ventures Ltd, the consortium of five Indian public sector firms, have shortlisted 4-5 coking coal mines in the US, Mozambique and Australia.
“I am hopeful that something will work out this year,” the SAIL chairman said.
Verma was in the city to attend a meeting of SCOPE, a forum of all PSUs.