State-owned NMDC’s steel plant at Nagarnar, Chhattisgarh, is facing delays in commissioning due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a top company official has said.
The steel plant, which had missed its completion schedule earlier as well, is now expected to take one more year to start production.
The National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) was first expected to commence steel production at its Nagarnar plant in July 2019, but failed to do so and then the commissioning deadline was shifted to 2020.
NMDC’s outgoing chairman and managing director N Baijendra Kumar told PTI, “Due to Covid-19 outbreak, workers have gone back (to villages) and as there are travel restrictions, experts are unable to travel to India to carry out certain trials at the site.”
Kumar will superannuate on July 31, and Sumit Deb will succeed him.
NMDC, under the Ministry of Steel, is setting up its first steel plant having capacity of 3 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) at Nagarnar in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh at a cost of about Rs 20,000 crore.
It is an ambitious project of the country’s largest iron ore miner as it would mark NMDC’s foray into the growing domestic steel sector.
On the project’s timelines, Kumar said it was to be completed in July 2020, but “now it will take another one year”.
The CMD said that apart from labour issues, there are other factors like machinery used in the plant has to be imported.
Kumar said that after the Covid-19 outbreak, experts from European countries like Denmark and Austria could not come to conduct certain trials required before commissioning the plant.
After the coronavirus lockdown in March, the construction work of the plant was completely stopped.
The work resumed only in April after the government announced fresh guidelines for enforcing the second phase of lockdown. As per the guidelines, the construction activity was allowed from April 20 with strict safety measures.
A company official said there are about 10,000-12,000 workers involved in the construction of the plant, but as almost half of them are unavailable, the progress of the work is extremely slow and will take months to complete.
Earlier, the plant faced commissioning delays due to local agitation over talks of privatisation and BHEL not being able to complete raw material handling.
The plant was in the list of public sector enterprises lined up by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) for strategic divestment.
However, the proposal for strategic divestment of the steel plant was later differed by an Inter-Ministerial Group for Divestment until the unit becomes operational.