Secondary steel manufacturer Veer Steel Mills has entered its second phase of expansion with the construction of a melt shop–the newest addition to its plant in Alrode, Alberton.
Production of steel is projected to reach 250 000 t/y and the capital cost of the expansion is estimated at R500-million.
Phase 1 commenced in November 2020 when a melt shop expansion got underway.
Two furnacesand a second billet strand caster are currently being built with commissioning to be completed in April 2022.
Phase 2 began in March 2021 when it broke ground for a newly built installation of a mechanised rolling mill in an existing facility, which is expected to be concluded in December 2022.
The company’s expansion transcends being solely focused on infrastructureand is targeted at fully integrating its practices to reflect a circular and green economic model, centered around recycling raw materials, and training and development for the unemployed, says Veer SteelMills group executive Neil Reddy.
South Africa has a lot of scrap metal that can be reused as a secondary raw material, and this is an opportunity for job creation. Veer Steel Mills is taking advantage of this market gap to train people interested in entering the steel industry.
“As a result, there will be an emergence of steel entrepreneurs, as well as employment and competition in the market –with the additional end-goal of stabilising the price of steel and raw materials and, inevitably, reducing our reliance on imported steel.”
Veer Steel Mills sources higher-grade scrap metal from various registered third-party dealers.
“Recycling is a core facet of our products; therefore, we consistently investigate cleaner manufacturing processes. Energy efficient technologies have been commissioned for the plant and, with the new melt shop, will reduce our waste streams. “New equipment has also been commissioned to reduce the generation of the existing polymetric slag.”
Veer Steel Mills also plans to slowly migrate towards micro, self-generated power to minimise its carbon footprint and reliance on electricity from State-owned power utility Eskom.
The company has taken its first step towards achieving this goalby installing solar panels on the roofs of some of its buildings.
Once the new, enhanced plant is commissioned, which is projected to be in the third quarter of 2022, Veer Steel Mills will employ about 800 people permanently at its Alrode plant.
The company outsources its training, which is facilitated by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority.
The company has also partnered with various institutions to conduct work-readiness programmes, such as the University of Johannesburg’s Resolution Circle, Katlehong Engineering School, and the Ekurhuleni West Technical and Vocational Education and Training College, and aims to partner with more technical and vocational education and training colleges.
Graduate trainees will be placed at Veer Steel Mills’ metallurgy department laboratories, and perform support functions while receiving practical and theoretical training.
Meanwhile, owing to the company’s philosophy of limiting reliance on imports from outside Africa, it supports the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which will help industries reach a wider market and create sales corridors between African countries, Reddy enthuses.
Veer Steel Mills products are being sold to customers in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, but it aims to expand its reach with the help of its other divisions, namely Pioneer Metals and Veer Aluminium.
“We believe the national Steel Master Plan by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, revised in 2021, is the opportunity needed to re-energize the steel industry. “The biggest challenge the industry is facing is the ailing non-recapitalisation of infrastructure in terms of steelmaking within the country. Amid the current stringent efforts to restart the economy the Steel Master Plan aims to develop local capabilities and create regional competitiveness.”
Although there has been adversity, such as Covid-19 affecting raw material supply to South Africa, increasing inflation, the recent national steel strike action, load-shedding, and the continuous issue of importinginstead of sourcing locally, Reddy points out that the excess scrap steel not being usedc reates a gap in the market that, through training and the help of the Steel Master Plan, can be capitalised on, Reddy notes.
“It is critical that South Africa implements and aggressively drives its mega-infrastructure plans,”he says.“The onus lies with government to drive these key projects, such as port expansions and developments, rail rehabilitation and new network establishment, and local and regional infrastructure rehabilitation and expansion.”
These are critical to support and provide impetus for economic growth and resuscitation in the country, and the revised Steel Master Planis the first step towards achieving this, Reddy concludes.