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Uganda poised to lead East and Central Africa in Steel Production

Saturday January 15, 2011

THE Uganda Steel Rolling Mills has embarked on the construction of an iron ore smelting plant in Jinja district that will start production by the end of this year.

The development means that Uganda will join the league of steel producing nations in the World.

The plant will be the first of its kind in Uganda and the East and Central African region.

The foundation stone for the $13m plant was laid by President Yoweri Museveni during his recent campaign trail in the Busoga sub-region.

The managing director of the Alam Group of Companies, Abid Alam, said the factory will produce approximately 150 metric tonnes of sponge iron per day at the time of its commissioning in October.

Production is expected to double to 300 metric tonnes per day in the second phase of the project, he said.

He said 150 direct jobs will be created at the completion of the project, and many other indirect ones will be opened up in the metal fabrication.

According to Alam, the plant will initially use hematite iron ore abundantly available in the Kigezi region.

It will later use the magnetite type of iron ore, which is available in other parts of the country, Alam explained.

He said whereas the plant would initially use imported coal from South Africa to smelt the iron, this would be substituted at a later stage with natural gas locally available in Uganda.

This will reduce the production costs and reduce the cost of the finished product, Alam said.

Museveni commended the Alam Group for the innovation that will add value to the iron ore resource that had remained unexploited in Uganda.

Industrial analysts have predicted that the project will stimulate the economy.

“The abundant iron ore reserves assure Steel Rolling Mills of a constant availability of the raw material, which will enable the company increase its steel rolling capacity and guarantee the availability of steel products on the Ugandan market,” said Vincent Ojambo, the general secretary of the Uganda Mines, Metal and Allied Workers Union.

He noted that this would turn Uganda into a nucleus for the development of the steel industry in East and Central Africa.

“The East African region is planning a large number of projects such as railways, roads, ports and power generation. The demand for construction steel has generally gone up as the economies expand and public spending increases,” Ojambo said.

Meanwhile, Steel Rolling Mills is also in advanced stages of establishing a 20 megawatts power plant that will generate power from steam-driven turbines.

The steam will be generated using waste from the sugar plant to be built adjacent to the iron plant.

Six megawatts of power will be utilised in the sugar plant, whereas 13-14 megawatts will be used in the steel plant.

By Frank Mugabi - The New Vision Newspaper

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