Essay on “Metallurgical Industry in India” (2553 Words)

The Iron and Steel Industry is considered a basic or key industry since all other industries depend on it for their machinery. Steel is also required to manufacture a variety of engineering goods, defence equipment and a variety of consumer goods like bicycles, fans, furniture, tractors and other agricultural machinery.

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There are four main sections in an integrated iron and steel plant.

1. Mixing of Raw Materials:

Iron ore, coking coal and limestone are mixed together in the proportion 4:2:1. Manganese is also added.

2. Blast Furnace:

The blast furnace is about 30 metres high steel structure with a diameter of 6 to 7 metres. It is lined with brick.

3. Steel Melting Furnaces:

The pig iron produced by the blast furnace has high levels of impurities made up of carbon, silicon, manganese, phosphorus and sulphur. All these are reduced considerably by melting the pig iron and oxidising the impurities. This process converts the pig iron into steel. By adding manganese, nickel, chromium special types of steel are made.

4. Rolling Mills:

The steel obtained is cast into huge ingots. These ingots are later rolled into different shapes and sizes, such as sheets, plates, beams, rods and nails. This is done in rolling mills.

Development of Iron and Steel Industry in India:

Iron and steel industry is considered the basic industry of the modern world as it gives rise to other industries. The art of manufacturing iron was known to India some thousand years before the Christ. The iron pillar at Qutub Minar in Delhi is a standing proof of the quality of the iron produced in the country. The famous Damascus swords were made of the India” iron.

In modern period, several attempts were made to start iron and steel works in the first half of the nineteenth century. But the first successful pig iron unit was set up by the Barakar Iron Works at Kulti (West Bengal) in 1875. It was with the location of iron and steel plant at Sakehi (modern Jamshedpur in Jharkhand) by the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) in 1907 that steel production began in India.

In 1908 a new steel plant was set up at Hirapur which was later merged with Kulti under the Indian Iron and Steel Company. The Mysore Iron and Steel Company commissioned a plant at Bhadravati (Karnataka) in 1923. It was the first iron plant based on wood and was built by Indian engineers. In 1937, another plant was set up at Burnpur, which was merged into the Indian Iron and Steel Company in 1953.

Thus, at the time of independence, iron and steel industries were at Jamshedpur, Kulti Hirapur-Burnpur, and Bhadravati. They produced 15 lakh tonnes of pig iron and 10 lakh tonnes of steel in 1950. To meet the growing demand of iron and steel, three integrated iron and steel plants were set up with the foreign technical assistance in public sector during the Second Five Year Plan.

These plants are located at Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Rourkela (Orissa) and Durgapur (West Bengal). During the Fourth Five Year Plan, another iron and steel plant was established at Bokaro (Jharkhand) again in the public sector. This plant was commissioned in 1972. For the management of the public sector undertakings the ‘Steel Authority of India Limited’ (SAIL) was incorporated in 1973. First on-shore steel plant in India was set up at Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh).

Steel plant at Salem (Tamil Nadu) was commissioned in 1983. Besides these, several mini steel plants are now functioning. Their total production capacity in 1989-90 was 16.3 million tonnes of pig iron and 15.6 millions tonnes of steel ingot. Production of pig iron was 15.7 million tonnes and of steel ingots 13.9 million tonnes in 1993-94. In 2010-11, finished steel output in India was 66.0 million tonnes.

Location of Iron and Steel Industry:

Iron and Steel Industry is basically a raw material oriented weight-losing industry. It requires iron ore, coal, limestone, dolomite and manganese. For production of one tonne of pig iron, 1.6 tonnes of iron ore, 0.8 tonne of coke (which needs 1.5 tonnes of coal) and 0.5 tonne of limestone-dolomite are required. These are bulky and relatively cheap materials. Therefore, plants tend to locate at a place from where assembly cost of these materials is likely to be lowest.

Only Jamshedpur plant occupies such normative location. Other plants are either located near coalfield, such as Durgapur, Bokaro, and Burnpur-Kulti or near iron ore producing areas, such as Rourkela, Bhilai, Bhadravati and Salem. Vishakhapatnam steel plant is an exception and has coastal location. All the plants are located on trunk rail routes well connected with large urban markets.

Major Iron and Steel Plants:

A brief description of major iron and steel plants is given below:

1. Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO):

The birth of modern Industry in India began with the establishment of the first Iron and Steel plant at Jamshedpur in 1907 by Jameshetji Tata, one of the pioneer of modern India. Jamshedpur, is ideally located between the sources of iron ore and coal.

It is on the Kolkata-Mumbai main railway line, about 240 kms northwest of Kolkata. Iron ore is obtained from the captive mines of Noamundi and Badampahar of Singhbhum and Joda mines of Orissa; manganese from Joda of Kendujhar district, and limestone and dolomite from Sundargarh district of Orissa. Coking coal comes from Jharia and west Bokaro coalfields.

The water requirement is met from the Dimna dam constructed across Subernarekha and Khorkai rivers. Several heavy industries have come up at and around Jamshedpur, and thus, it has become a well developed industrial complex.

2. Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO):

It has three plants located in Kulti, Hirapur, and Burnpur. This plant, originally in the private sector was nationalised in 1972. Hirapur unit produces cast iron only while Kulti-Burnpur produces steel. The iron works at Kulti, on the Barakar River, is the oldest existing plant in India. Annual capacity of these plants is 1 million tonne. These are situated in the heart of the Damodar valley coalfields.

These units get iron ore from iron ore mines of Singhbhum (Jharkhand), coal from Raniganj-Jharia and Ramnagar, and limestone from Ganpur (Orissa). Manganese is obtained from Barajamda-Banspani in Orissa. Fresh water is obtained from the Damodar river. Though the assembly cost of this plant is higher than that of TISCO, its location is more economic than the latter in view of its advantageous position with regard to the use of wagons both ways.

The wagons carrying ore to the plant ‘carry coal for Rourkela and Bhilai plants on their way back. Three more Iron and Steel plants are being constructed by the government at three locations, one at Bailaidila (Vishakapatnam), in Orissa Vijayanagar in Andhra Pradesh and at Salem in Tamil Nadu.

3. Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Limited, Bhadravathi:

The first unit in public sector now known as Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Ltd (formerly known as the Mysore Iron and Steel Plant), started functioning at Bhadravathi in Karnataka in 1923. It is situated on the left bank of the Bhadra River.

The iron ore is obtained from the nearby Bababudan Hills about 41 kms away. Limestone is available from a quarry about 23 kms to the east. Manganese comes from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Instead of coal, charcoal made from the forests of the Western Ghats was originally used for power.

But now it uses hydro-electricity from the Mahatma Gandhi Hydro-electric Project and the Sharavathy Hydro­electric Project. In addition, it has all the facilities of abundant cheap labour and adequate transport facilities. It is directly connected by railway to the mineral areas, commercial centres and nearby ports.

These mines still supply ore to the plant. Since this plant is far away from the coalfields of northeastern plateaus, it used wood in place of coal upto 1951. Now it uses hydroelectricity from the Jog hydel power plant.

4. Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP), Rourkela:

The Rourkela Steel Plant was set up by the state with assistance from the famous firm of Krupp and Demag of Germany in 1959. It is situated in the Sundargarh district in northern Orissa, very close to iron ore, manganese and limestone resources.

The plant obtains its iron ore from Bonaigarh, Mayurbanj and Keonjhar districts. Coal comes from the Raniganj, Jharia, Talcher and Korba coalfields. Limestone is brought from quarries in Birmitrapur in Orissa and Hirri in Madhya Pradesh. Its water requirements are met by the Brahmani River and electricity from the Hirakud Power Project. Rourkela is well-connected by railway. It lies on the main railway line joining Mumbai and Kolkata on the South East Railway route.

The Rourkela Steel Plant produces heavy steel plates, sheets and strips that are used in the manufacture of railway wagons, boilers, automobiles and ship-building. It also provides several by-products for the fertiliser industry.

This plant has a separate fertilizer plant. The Rourkela plant has supplied plates and spiral welded pipes of large diameter for the Mathura Petroleum Refinery and armour plates for the “Vijayeta” tanks and special steels for the launch vehicles of Indian Space Satellite Progrmme.

5. Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP):

This plant was established with Russian collaboration at Bhilai in Durg district of Chhattisgarh, was commissioned in 1959. This location is selected due to the proximity of the rich haematite ore mines of Dalli-Rajhara just 86 kms south of the plant. Coking coal comes from Korba mines (Chhattisgarh) and Kargali (Jharkhand) and manganese from Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh) and Bhandara (Maharashtra).

Limestone and dolomite are available in Chhattisgarh itself. Korba thermal power station meets the demands of power. The Hawra-Mumbai railway line provides transport facility. The Bhilai steel plant produces rails, beams and other heavy structural products. Bhilai was a small village in the Durg district of Chhattisgarh until the development of steel plant when it becomes well known as the ‘Pulsating Giant’.

6. Durgapur Steel Plant (DSP):

This plant set up with Britis, West Germany and Soviet assistance at Durgapur in Burdwan district, West Bengal, was commissioned in 1962. Iron ore is obtained from Noamundi mines (Singhbhum), coal from Raniganj and Jharia, manganese from Kendujhar and limestone from Sundargarh (both in Orissa).

The Damodar Valley Corporation supplies power to the plant. The plant has excellent transport facilities and is situated on the main railway line between Delhi and Kolkata. The plant produces pig iron, tools, ingots, alloys and light structured products.

7. Bokaro Steel Limited (BSL):

This plant established at Bokaro in Jharkhand with Soviet assistance was commissioned in 1972. It is located on the right bank of the Damodar River, near the confluence of the Damodar and Bokaro rivers. The plant obtains coal from Jharia and Bokaro, iron ore from Kendu mines of Kendujhar and limestone and dolomite from Palamu. The DVC meets the requirement of electricity.

8. Salem Steel Plant (SSP):

This plant is located at Salem in Tamil Nadu. It gets ore from nearby mines of Karnataka and lignite coal from Neyveli. It manufactures special grade steel.

9. Vishakhapatnam Steel Project (VSP):

This plant is the first coastal integrated plant in India. Set up by the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited during the Sixth Five Year Plan, it is located at Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. It utilises the high grade iron ore of the Bailadila (Chhattisgarh) and obtains coal from the Damodar valley region. Limestone and dolomite are available in Khammam district.

Types of Iron and Steel Industries in India:

(i) An Integrated Steel Plant is one where all the processes are carried out in one complex, from handling of raw material, coke making, steel making, rolling and shaping of the steel.

(ii) Mini Steel Plants: In addition to the large-scale integrated iron and steel plants, there are many mini steel plants in the country. At present there are 216 mini steel plants.

The government has given licenses to many industries to set up mini steel plants because of many advantages.

1. Unlike large integrated plants, mini steel plants do not need huge capital investment.

2. Mini steel plants have electric furnaces and so they reduce the consumption of coal, helping to conserve it.

3. They utilize scrap iron from big steel plants as raw material and thus help in recycling of iron and making the scrap useful and profitable.

4. They are especially useful in promoting production of alloy steel in electric furnaces.

5. Since mini steel plants are smaller in size, they can be conveniently located in industrial towns to meet the special steel requirements. This reduces transport costs.

6. While the integrated steel plants produce mild steel, mini steel plants produce mild steel as well as alloy and special steels to meet specific needs.

(iii) Re-Rolling Units:

There are mainly small scale units producing articles for agricultural purposes and ferro-concrete works. There are three types of re-rolling units.

(1) Billet Re-roller:

Manufactures bar, rods hoops, light structures and special sections

(2) Secondary Producers:

Manufactures bars, spring steel, rivers, nuts, bolts, steel castings, wires, hoops

(3) Scrap Pre-roller:

Manufactures rods and bars.

The PSUs of the Ministry of Steel are : Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL); Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd. (RINL); Sponge Iron India Ltd. (SIIL), Hindustan Steelworks Construction Ltd. (HSCL); MECON Ltd., Bharat Refractory Ltd. (BRL), MSTC Ltd.; and Ferro Scrap Nigam Ltd. (FSNL).

Import and Export:

Export of finished steel during 2010-11 stood at 3.46 million tonnes while imports during 2010-11. Stood at 6.79 million tonnes. The imports mainly include hot rolled coils, cold rolled coils and semis. Earlier exports consisted mainly of plates, structural, bars and rods whereas now apart from these hot rolled coils cold rolled coils, colour coated sheets, GP/GC sheets, pig iron and sponge iron ore also being exported.

Aluminium Smelting:

Aluminium smelting is the second important metallurgical industry of India. Because of its flexibility and good conductivity of electricity and heat, aluminium is a universally accepted metal for a large number of industries.

It is gaining popularity as a substitute to steel, copper, zinc and lead in a number of industries. For the production of one tonne of aluminium, approximately 6 tonnes of bauxite and 18600 kwh of electricity are needed. Electricity alone shares 30 to 40 per cent of the production cost. This indicates that location of this industry is influenced by the availability of bauxite and inexpensive electricity.

There are 8 aluminium plants in the country today. They are located in Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. These together produce about 620 thousand tonnes of aluminium per annum. Aluminium is a non-ferrous metal and is used for making a number of things like building of aircrafts, manufacture of domestic utensils, motor cars, furniture and cables for electrical transmission lines.

Location of aluminium smelting industry is affected by the availability of cheap power which is required in large quantity or cheap and efficient means of transport. The raw material being bulky and the industry being highly weight- losing (i.e. where the weight of the finished product is less than that of raw material used), the nearness to the raw material sources or the facility of cheap transport is very important. But the availability of cheap power is important in its location due to its huge consumption.

The raw material for this industry is bauxite and it is smelted for making alumina. There are five primary aluminium producing companies in India and four of these also produce alumina. In India this industry is concentrated mainly in the southern and central parts to take advantage of the local raw material and cheap hydroelectricity.

India possesses estimated 250 million tonnes of bauxite ore of which about 40 million tonnes are of best quality. In 1938 first plants Alupuram Reduction work of Indian Aluminium Company in Kerala was started.

The Hindustan Aluminium Corporation Ltd. (HINDALCO) was set up in 1958. Since then industry has made tremendous progress. At present there are two companies which produce primary aluminium. One company owned and operated by Aluminium Corporation of India is situated at Jaykaynagar near Asansol and is integrated plant which takes in bauxite and makes rolled metals and other finished products.

The other company, the Indian Aluminium company works in collaboration with Canadian company and has plants at different places-mining and alumina plant at Muri (Jharkhand), reduction and extrusion work at Alway in Kerala and the Rolling Mills at Belur (West Bengal) and Powder and Paste plant at Kalwa near Thane (Maharashtra).

The Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (BALCO) a public sector company was in controversy when it was sold to private firm for Rs. 551 crore by the Government. It is situated in Korba of Chhattisgarh. The National Aluminium Company Ltd. (NALCO) was set up in 1981 and has its bauxite mine in Koraput district of Orissa.

Besides them the important locations where aluminium is smelted are (Karnataka), Koraput and Hirakud (Orissa), Renukoot (Uttar Pradesh), Mettur (Tamil Nadu) and Ratnagiri (Maharashtra).

The major problem faced by this industry is the availability of cheap and abundant power. INDALCO, has three smelting plants located at Belgaum (Karnataka), Alupuram (Kerala) and Hirakud (Orissa). It has captive bauxite mines at Chandgad and Nagartaswadi, Kolhapur districts, Maharashtra and Bagru and Bhasar Lohardaga. Other smelting plant is Madras Aluminium Company (Malco) at Mettur, Salem district, Tamilnadu.

Copper Smelting:

The copper smelting plant in India was set up by the Indian Copper Corporation at Ghatshila in Jharkhand. The Hindustan Copper Ltd. took over the Indian Copper Corporation in 1972, and since then it is the sole producer of copper in the country. It has two centres: one at Maubhandar, near Ghatshila in Singhbhum district and the other at Khetri in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. Copper ore is obtained from the mines of those districts, where their smelting plants are located.

Malanjkhand Copper Project:

The project is India’s first large size open cast mine in hard rock. Malanjkhand mines of Balaghat district (Madhya Pradesh) supplement the supply of copper ore to Khetri. A new copper project based on imported ore is being set up at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. India produces 43 thousand tonnes of copper blister (partly purified), which is only half of the requirement and the remaining half is imported from Zambia, Chile, United States of America and Canada.

Copper ore mines were worked centuries ago in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and other areas in India. This is a weight-losing industry and is therefore located near the sources of raw material supply. Indian Copper Corporation was set up in 1924 and the first copper smelting unit in the country was the Maubhander unit of Copper Corporation Ltd at Ghatshila in 1928.

Indian Copper Complex Ghatsila:

The Hindustan Copper Ltd. was set up in 1967 at Kolkata for the development of copper industry. It took over the ICC (Ghatshila) in 1972. Since then the HCL looks after the development of the industry. Now HCL is the sole producer of primary copper in the country.

Khetri Copper Complex:

The location of the second unit at Khetri in Rajasthan was also determined by the presence of raw materials. This complex was erected by HCL to exploit the Khetri Singhana Ores. This mill processes the local ore. This is one of the largest units of its kind in the world.

Malanjkhand copper project in Madhya Pradesh is the first large sized open cast mine in hard rock and has been planned for ultimate production of 2 million tonnes of ores. Dariba Copper Project in Aiwar district of Rajasthan has a capacity production of 100 tonnes of ore per day or copper concentrates equivalent to about 600 tonnes of copper metal per year.

(IV) Lead and Zinc Smelting Industries:

Lead and zinc form a very essential group of non-ferrous metals used in a wide range of industries. The indigenous production of these metals was small and most of the country’s requirements were met through imports till recently.

Lead is used in a number of industries. India has a total smelting capacity of around 65,000 tonnes of primary lead contributed entirely by Hindustan Zinc Ltd. (HCL) in its lead smelter at Chanderiya Chittorgarh district, Rajasthan and Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

The HZL plant receive their lead- zinc ores from the captive mines, at Zawar Group, Rajpura-Dariba and Rampura- Agucha in Rajasthan in the case of the Tundoo and Chandriya plants and the supplies are from the Bandalamothu mines at Guntur district (AP) and Sargippali, Sundargarh district (Orissa) to the plant at Visakhapatnam, which also receives substantial supplies of imported zinc concentrates. Australia is the most important supplier of lead to India, the other suppliers being the UAE, Singapore and China.

The total zinc smelting capacity in India is contributed by the public sector company Hindustan Zinc Ltd. and Binani Zinc Ltd. The HZL operates three zinc smelters one each at Chandriya, Chittorgarh district Rajasthan, Debri, Udaipur district Rajasthan and Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.