GFG Alliance drives SA iron ore sector with Whyalla steel expansion

GFG Alliance executive chairman Sanjeev Gupta has revealed the company is planning to construct a steel plant in Whyalla, South Australia, that will be the largest in the western world.

Gupta announced the project, dubbed Liberty Next-Gen Steel, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten at a press conference in Whyalla yesterday.

“This is the turnaround state and this is the comeback city in Australia when we’re talking about Whyalla,” Morrison said.

The project will create a new steel plant for Whyalla capable of producing 10 million tonnes a year.

Gupta also announced that the existing Whyalla steelworks would also be transformed through a $600 million investment into a 1.8 million tonnes a year steel producer.

GFG Alliance mining division SIMEC Mining secured two mining leases in January this year for the Iron Sultan and Iron Warrior iron mines near Whyalla.

The Iron Sultan mine is expected to feed 600,000 tonnes a year of hematite iron ore to the existing Whyalla steelworks. GFG Alliance will, however, require significant sources of iron ore for its new plant, something it seems to be working towards.

Last week, for example, SIMEC Mining returned highly prospective results from a drilling program at Havilah Resources’ Grants Iron Ore Basin, a discovery favourably positioned for the Whyalla operations.

The transformation of the existing Whyalla steelworks represents a turnaround from just two years ago when the operation went into administration due to former owner Arrium’s extensive financial issues.

GFG Alliance purchased the steelworks in 2017 saving hundreds of jobs in the process.

The company signed two contracts yesterday, with Danieli and CISDI Engineering, for the development of rail and structural heavy section mill, and a pulverised coal injection (PCI) plant respectively over the next three years at Whyalla.

“This transformation will vastly improve the operational, financial and environmental performance of the operations, paving the way for Whyalla to become an enticing, global hub for innovative industry,” Gupta said.

The creation of the new next-gen steel operation with a capacity of 10 million tonnes a year (and the infrastructure to eventually double that capacity) and the upgrades to the current Whyalla operation is expected to increase the town’s population fourfold to around 80,000.

“This is a major boost for our long‐term outlook, and gives Whyalla City Council and other industries and businesses more confidence to be able to plan for the future,” Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin said.

“The plant will also have state‐of‐the‐art environmental controls, which is yet another positive for the community on top of the financial investment and job creation.”

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