10 June 2024

BlueScope's plate mill upgrade to spark $300m boost to production and jobs

| Kellie O'Brien
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Australian Steel Products chief executive Tania Archibald and Planning and Public Spaces Minister Paul Scully at the announcement of BlueScope’s plate mill refurbishment. Photos: Supplied.

BlueScope’s 60-year-old plate mill will be given a $300 million refurbishment to cater to an increase in demand from the construction, renewable-energy and defence sectors.

The NSW Government on 7 June announced state-significant development planning approval for the upgrade, which will improve production capability and capacity at the Port Kembla site, resulting in the creation of 95 construction jobs and 18 operational positions.

Planning and Public Spaces Minister and Wollongong MP Paul Scully said the project was the most significant upgrade of the plate mill since being built in 1963.

“Much of the original plant is still in use today, including the original reheat furnaces, and six decades later, this upgrade is needed to modernise operations and increase efficiency,” Mr Scully said.

“The new furnace represents the best available technology, which will keep steel plate production local and continue to provide enormous economic benefit to the Illawarra for the future.”

Expected to start in July 2024 and take three years to complete, it will involve replacing two of the existing furnaces with a newer and more energy-efficient alternative, upgrading infrastructure, and modernising processing plant equipment.

The result will be increased production capacity from 430,000 tonnes a year to 600,000 tonnes, and a direct economic stimulus of $650 million for NSW.

READ ALSO $136.8 million grant for No 6 furnace an investment in BlueScope’s green future

Measures will also be in place to reduce environmental impacts from its operations, such as a large reduction in fuel consumption.

In addition, the project will help BlueScope to support the emerging renewable-energy sector in the Illawarra producing more high-quality steel plates, which will help the state work towards its target of net zero by 2050.

“Combined with the reline of the number-six blast furnace and the approved jetty upgrades, these investments signal a strong future for steelmaking in the Illawarra,” Mr Scully said.

plate mill

Refurbishing BlueScope’s 60-year-old plate mill will create a major boost in jobs and a spike in production.

“I look forward to this upgrade getting underway and these new highly skilled job opportunities being offered to the local community.”

Australian Steel Products chief executive Tania Archibald welcomed the government’s support in providing planning approval, further cementing the project’s viability and demonstrating alignment with a shared vision for economic growth and industrial advancement in the region.

“The modernisation of the plate mill is an important step in bolstering Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability, supporting critical industries like renewable energy, defence and major infrastructure,” Ms Archibald said.

READ ALSO We’re closer to transformative green energy tech as world-class investors wrap around Illawarra innovator

“This project is a testament to BlueScope’s vision to be a vibrant, modern and sustainable manufacturer in Australia.”

In a show of support for the upgrade and the broader industrial land transformation project, the government also announced the establishment of a “whole of government” working group to be chaired by Mr Scully.

He said the working group would coordinate government decision-making in the largest industrial land reactivation proposal in the world.

This would see land provided for a multi-industrial precinct with the potential to create 30,000 jobs in emerging industries.

“I am also looking forward to chairing the new ‘whole of government’ working group, acting as a one-stop shop for the coordination of departmental and agency decision-making on the world’s largest land reactivations – the equivalent of transforming land use in Sydney’s CBD from Circular Quay to Central Station,” Mr Scully said.

“This confirms the strategic importance that the NSW Government places on this land transformation, not only for the Illawarra region but the whole of NSW.”

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