The Steel Ministry is pushing for completion and commissioning of NMDC’s Integrated Steel Plant at Nagarnar (NISP), of 3 million tonne per annum capacity, by March 31. The plant was scheduled for completion and commissioning in September 2022 but was delayed for a variety of reasons.

The steel plant is on the Centre’s divestment radar — it will offload 50.79 per cent stake — and the shortlisted bidders include Adani Group, JSW, JSPL, AMNS India and Essar Group. The transfer of management and control to the strategic partner will be done following a “two-stage competitive bidding process”.

In an internal note, the Ministry has maintained various timelines that has to be followed while it has kept the completion timeline at March 31.

For instance, the note reviewed by businessline says, the coke oven battery has to be ready by February 18; some 15 days before the blast furnace blow-in happens. Blast furnace blow-in is scheduled for March 15. And the first casting is expected by March 31.

Coke is one of the basic materials used in blast furnaces for the conversion of iron ore into hot metal (liquid iron), most of which is subsequently processed into steel. The major portion of coke produced is used for the production of hot metal. On the other hand, the process of starting a blast furnace after its construction or after its relining is called blowing-in. Both are critical towards commissioning of a steel plant. Earlier in October, the first coke oven battery was commissioned.

According to a NMDC official, being a greenfield integrated steel plant, several major units need to be commissioned sequentially so that their interdependence can be established smoothly. The process will eventually culminate in the commissioning of the Hot Strip Mill and Thin Slab Caster in the coming months.

“NISP is in the construction completion stage and presently various facilities are under testing and trial,” the note reads.

10% stake pick up

Located in Bastar district of Chattisgarh, the Nagarnar steel plant was recently demerged from NMDC — the country’s largest iron-ore merchant miner — and was listed on the bourses in February.

An Inter-Ministerial Group has asked NMDC Ltd to ‘pick-up’ 10 per cent in the Nargarnar steel plant and stay on-board because of the “goodwill” the PSU iron-ore miner enjoys in the Maoist-affected Bastar region.

The iron-ore miner will be “offered” 10 per cent of the stake at the steel plant as the “same discovered price in competitive bidding”.