Last month when steel magnate of international renown Lakshmi Mittal CEO of ArcelorMittal had a virtual rendezvous with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, it shook up the investment ecosystem in the state. In 2013, Mittal after committing over Rs 40,000 crore on a mega, greenfield steel mill in the state had mothballed the project on account of festering law and order problems and the protracted delay in getting land from resentful landowners.
What ensued was a feud wherein the state administration retaliated, accusing the steel behemoth of not paying off land dues. The then Chief Secretary Jugal Mohapatra even blurted out that ArcelorMittal’s withdrawal would not press the brakes on Odisha’s investment engine.
After this episode of friction, it seemed the Mittal story in Odisha had folded up. But when the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) made public of the video chat with the steel baron, the momentum revived.
When the promoter pledged Rs 2000 crore on an array of projects including the recently owned Thakurani commercial iron ore mine, the obituary was written seven years back is now undone.
Mittal profusely thanked the Chief Minister and the state administration for their unstinted support in ensuring uninterrupted operations of the pellet complex in Paradip.
The unit ran at full capacity and shipped products despite the debilitating impact of Coronavirus across all industries. On a personal note, Mittal extolled the leadership and vision of Naveen Patnaik in tackling a pandemic of global proportions. He assured the regional satrap that ArcelorMittal continues to remain wedded to the Odisha growth story.
The recent commencement of the Thakurani merchant mine undeniably gives ArcelorMittal that foothold in Odisha’s iron and steel ecosystem. It may be a baby step but a heralder of the bigger investment engine about to rumble on the state’s track. Note that ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steelmaker with operations straddling geographies.
Mittal has invested all his business acumen and foresight to have a massive grip over the global steel empire. Getting his confidence stands to benefit Odisha which can go many notches up the global investor perception index.
The exit of both Posco and ArcelorMittal had created gaping holes in Odisha’s otherwise favoured investment image. The comeback of Mittal, albeit on a smaller scale, promises to reverse that perception.
The pellet complex now owned by ArcelorMittal & Nippon Steel India (AM/NS), a joint venture forged with Japan’s Nippon Steel Corporation, has over 2000 acres of surplus land. Essar Steel, the previous promoter had committed to building a 10 million tonne steel plant at the site.
AM/NS can seriously contemplate reviving the steel plan instead of allowing the site to host just a pellet unit to feed its integrated steel operations at Hazira (Gujarat). With its abundance of raw materials (red iron ore) and a mix of scale and skill, Odisha offers opportunities on a platter.
By Dibyajit Sahu
Image Source: Google