Sajjan Jindal’s JSW Group is going to make a fresh attempt to kick off the stalled projects at Salboni in Bengal with the proposal of a cement plant. The $11-billion group has suggested building a 2.5-million-tonne slag-based unit at an investment of Rs 500 crore after it failed to build a steel and power plant over the last decade. If everything goes according to the plan, the Mumbai-based conglomerate may start the project next year. The Salboni project was officially put on hold in December 2014.
However, the new proposal would be a pale shadow of the original plan hatched by JSW in 2006 when it signed an agreement with the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-government to invest Rs 35,000 crore in a 10-million-tonne steel and a 1,680MW power plant.
The plan then had also included a cement unit to utilise the slag generated from the blast furnace of the steel plant.
But now the cart will be put up before the horse as the cement plant will come up ahead of steel and power. “We want the ball rolling at Salboni. The cement project will create an atmosphere of excitement in that area,” Biswadip Gupta, a senior executive at JSW who is looking after the company’s interest in Bengal for years, said.
Jindal had put the steel project on hold after a series of clampdown on iron ore mining by the Supreme Court queered the availability of the raw material in Bengal, which has no deposit of the metal.
The power projects then fell through when the apex court scrapped allocations of three Bengal coal mines last year along with 200 more in the country.
JSW, the largest private producer of steel in India, says there will be no problem sourcing key raw materials, slag and clinker (a derivative of limestone), for the cement unit. Pankaj Kulkarni, director of JSW Cement, said the plant would source slag from ISP at Burnpur or Tata Steel Jamshedpur, which is only 120km away from this West Midnapur town. “We will import clinker from Thailand or China through Haldia port and haul it by rail,” Kulkarni added.
JSW Cement has applied with the state government, seeking to “assign” the plot to JSW Cement from the existing company so that it can raise a loan against it. Gupta said the plant and machinery had been ordered from KHD of Germany.
Around 1,000-1,200 people will be required for construction. Once the plant comes to production around 2018, the company will employ about 200 people. Even though it will be good news for the region, a hotbed for Maoist trouble a few years back, the employment opportunity, direct and indirect, will be only a fraction of a steel plant.