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Man of Steel: Billionaire Sets out to Revive Whyalla

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The British billionaire steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta recently revealed his plan to revive the decaying steel town of Whyalla in South Australia into a thriving metropolis. 

“We have a place which has all the natural resources required to make steel, we have the best natural resources for renewable energy, we have great infrastructure including a unique port, and most of all, we have a workforce who was willing to fight for destiny itself. So why, why is it not viable, was my question…,” Gupta recently told The Daily Telegraph.

Late last year, his company, GFG Alliance, bought the failed Arrium businesses, including the Whyalla steelworks, out of administration. And from that, he has developed grand plans to revive the town’s fortunes and introduce many new industries to the area. He’s planning to take its population from about 23,000 to more than 80,000 people and make it the largest regional town in South Australia.

The new “mega” steel plant has already signed contracts worth more than $600 million as part of the transformation project. 

Gupta plans to increase the capacity of the current steel mill from 1.2 million tonne capacity to 1.8 million. He also has plans to invest in renewable energy in order to run the plant. He will develop the USD 1 billion, 280-megawatt Cultana Solar Project on the outskirts of Whyalla, with investment coming from his majority share-owned company SIMAC Zen Energy. The project will use 780,000 solar panels and employ 350 people during construction. These plans also include a separate co-generation plant at the steelworks using waste gas and pumped hydro projects at the Middleback Range mining operation, supplying feedstock to the steelworks.

The new “mega” steel plant has already signed contracts worth more than $600 million as part of the transformation project. Moreover, it will include a new rolling mill, which will replace the existing 60-year-old infrastructure. The rolling mill will be completed in partnership with Italian metal industry firm Danieli to increase annual steel production.

There are also plans for a state-of-the-art rail and structural heavy section mill and a pulverised coal injection plant.

Mr Gupta said it angered him that people thought Whyalla was a “broken steel town,” saying he relished finding “diamonds in the rough.” “And here we truly did find a diamond. I found a diamond which was, in many ways to me, obvious,” he said.

He has a history of rejuvenating steel making and engineering plants in the UK. His business model called “Greensteel” uses recycled scrap metal as feedstock for his plants and powering them by renewable energy. 

“Thousands of job opportunities will be created throughout the construction phase and from the plant’s ongoing operations”

Gupta told the Australian Financial Review that the renewable energy products he has planned would substantially reduce production costs for the steelworks while providing competitive power sources for other commercial and industrial users in the area. 

“We have a strong conviction that traditional carbon-intensive generation sources do not have a long-term future as the predominant source of power in Australia and globally,” he said. “Using the most advanced technologies and our own local resources, we will aim to be one of the most competitive steel producers globally.

“Thousands of job opportunities will be created throughout the construction phase and from the plant’s ongoing operations,” Mr. Gupta added. “This will see a new generation of steel?makers proudly competing on the world stage, and reflects our desire to transform Whyalla into both an Australian and global powerhouse of industry for generations to come.”  

Not only will the revitalised steelworks inject a much needed economic boost into the South Australian town, but other companies and industries are also coming on board, bringing diverse job prospects with them. In early December, Whyalla’s Mayor Claire McLaughlin revealed the ambitious plans for the town. Among the many industries that will revitalise Whyalla are: 

A solar horticultural facility: The $145m intensive horticulture facility will be entirely powered by solar energy and will be built within the Whyalla Industrial Estate. Chinese company BECE will fund and build this project.

A foreshore hotel: A $45m, 150-room hotel with conference and pool facilities is planned for development by the Pelligra Group. The hotel will have 3.5 to 4-star accommodation including conference areas. The location is to be confirmed.

Organic Recycling: A $5–6m green organic recycling business will be established in Whyalla by Peats Soil & Garden Supplies. It is believed to be operational by mid-2019

There is also talk that Gupta plans to establish an electric car manufacturing operation in Australia, with speculation that it may also be based in South Australia.

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