Agni Steel South Africa started production at its R400-million, state-of-the-art steel mill in the Coega industrial development zone (IDZ), in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, in April.
The company is a joint venture between Agni Steel India and Afro Asia Empowerment Holdings and its founding is a direct result of the South African government’s mineral beneficiation policy. Agni Steel India director Kugalur Ilangovan attended the formal ceremony to mark the start of production.
“This is not a small achievement; our South African partners have persisted, following a dream spanning over eight years – a dream where the financial forecasts fluctuate, the export market changes owing to currency variation and the whole business plan takes on a new shape almost a decade later, but we are here now, as a team, to witness the realisation of this dream,” he explained.
The beneficiation policy aims to provide a strategic focus for South Africa’s minerals industry in terms of developing mineral value chains and facilitating the expansion of beneficiation initiatives in the country.
“The revised South African approach to scrap metal beneficiation, and the Department of Trade and Industry’s policy on supply, whereby local consumption requirements must be fulfilled prior to exportation of locally available raw materials, are developments that are satisfactory.
“These are exactly the methods or schemes that international IDZs present as a key value proposition and incentive for investment. With these policies in place, South Africa will experience growth,” said Agni Steel South Africa director Hassan Khan.
The new Agni plant is also geared for expansion to meet any future demand, with partial infrastructure already in place to ramp up production to 20 000 t/m when a new set of furnaces is added in the next phase.
Agni Steel South Africa’s project has already spurred the development of business in the Eastern Cape through its purchase of vast volumes of scrap metal from scrap dealers across the province, Khan explained.
The company is also committed to skills development and recognising potential, whereby the company has trained several staff members including a truck driver.
“One of the things we have been proud of is our staff development. Although the level of education that is available in India is higher than South Africa’s, we are supporting training so people can move up the ranks by creating opportunities for people to grow.
“In this way, with training, someone can move from driver to melting supervisor, while a junior electrician can become an overall supervisor. “The socioeconomic impacts of these promotions, which have really happened, are already being felt across these employees’ lives,” elaborated Ilangovan.
Agni Steel South Africa has a staff complement of more than 165 employees. A group of 90 Indian specialists are also based at the steel mill for a two-year contract with the express purpose of transferring skills to their South African counterparts.