Tata Steel opens briquette plant in South Africa

By Fakir Hassen, IANS,

Richards Bay (South Africa) : A new briquette plant set up by the South African subsidiary of Tata Steel in the industrial port of Richards Bay became operational earlier this week, a top government official said.

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The project is also expected to help reduce unemployment in the region, which is now 40 percent, according to Stan Larkan, mayor of the Uthungulu district municipality, in which Richards Bay falls.

Larkan switched on the briquette plant, commissioned by Tata Steel KZN, at its ferrochrome smelter here Monday.

Tata Steel KZN managing director Somdeb Banerjee described the event as historic. “Effective from October 27, 2008, Tata Steel KZN is officially no longer on a project phase, it is now a fully operational business,” Banerjee said.

Larkan thanked Tata Steel KZN and Tata Steel for the investment. “We wish to thank the Tata Group for having built the plant in Richards Bay,” he said, adding that the investment would go a long way in improving the quality of life of the local people.

Briquette is a block of coal dust, charcoal and sawdust or wood chips and is used for kindling.

The briquette technology is new to South Africa and is considered environmentally friendly, compared to other technologies of agglomeration. All other South African ferrochrome producers use pellets as agglomerates.

The briquettes will be charged into the furnaces with lumpy ore, charcoal or coking coal, lime and other minerals to produce ferrochrome.