In­dus­trial park emerges from Highveld’s IMPLOSION

Man­age­ment up­cy­cles gi­ant steel plant to pro­vide jobs and busi­ness space in new in­dus­trial park, writes Sizwe sama Yende

CityPress - - Business -

Driving around the com­plex of what was the Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium plant in Mpumalanga gives one a spooky feel­ing. “Never mind the rusty look,” said An­drew Mar­alack as he took City Press on a short tour around the plant. Mar­alack is Highveld In­dus­trial Park’s chief fi­nance of­fi­cer, a po­si­tion he orig­i­nally held at the de­funct busi­ness. “This place is alive and ev­ery­thing is work­ing.” The plant stands to­day be­cause of the fore­sight of the Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium man­age­ment.

Had they caved in af­ter a busi­ness res­cue plan failed to at­tract in­vestors, its as­sets would have been scrapped.

In­stead, they came up with a novel idea to turn the plant into an in­dus­trial park.

Now re­named the Highveld In­dus­trial Park, the in­fra­struc­ture of the 50-year-old steel and vana­dium gi­ant still stands strong on 400 hectares of land out­side Emalahleni.

Although Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium faced its demise, delisted and re­trenched its en­tire work­force of 1 800 in Fe­bru­ary 2015 af­ter be­ing sub­merged in debt ex­ceed­ing R2 bil­lion, the new in­dus­trial park is a bea­con of hope that is cre­at­ing much-needed jobs and pro­vid­ing skills to the com­mu­nity.

There are 21 busi­nesses that are rent­ing space in the plant and seven start-up busi­ness have been es­tab­lished.

A to­tal of 758 peo­ple, 316 of whom were re­trenched from Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium, are work­ing in the busi­ness.

“The scrap metal guys would have a good day if this plant was scrapped,” said Mar­alack.

“The money in­vested here makes this place a na­tional key point … scrap­ping it would be a ma­jor loss to South Africa with all the equip­ment, plants and fac­to­ries on site,” he added.

Mar­alack said the man­age­ment saw new op­por­tu­ni­ties and cap­i­talised on what the old Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium already had.

He said the plant had the ad­van­tage of be­ing self-re­liant in terms of ser­vices since it had di­rect ac­cess to bulk wa­ter, ob­tained elec­tric­ity di­rectly from Eskom (it is the eighth largest elec­tric­ity con­sumer in the coun­try) and already had a gas sup­ply from Sa­sol.

“We re­alised that we are sit­u­ated in the mid­dle of an in­dus­trial hub with mines, power sta­tions and other in­dus­tries. So we thought that we could service all the busi­nesses around us if we let ev­ery­body come and set up their busi­nesses here,” Mar­alack said.

These op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clude:

. Oper­at­ing a struc­tural mill in part­ner­ship with steel man­u­fac­tur­ing multi­na­tional Arcelor Mit­tal, as well as a heavy­duty work­shop for re­fur­bish­ment of dragline buck­ets;

. Host­ing an en­gi­neer­ing train­ing cen­tre for weld­ing, rig­ging, boil­er­mak­ing, in­stru­men­ta­tion, elec­tri­cians, mill­wrights, fit­ting and turn­ing;

. Us­ing the ex­ist­ing rail in­fra­struc­ture to im­port coal for ju­nior min­ing com­pa­nies; and

. Host­ing a plumb­ing, brick­lay­ing and com­puter skills cen­tre, as well as a cater­ing com­pany.

The struc­tural mill, which dis­tin­guishes it­self as the only medium to heavy struc­tural mill in Africa, man­u­fac­tures rails, con­struc­tion col­umns and beams.

“Arcelor Mit­tal cov­ers Highveld’s cost to run the mill on its be­half. We’re re­fur­bish­ing it to the re­quired en­gi­neer­ing stan­dards. They give us raw steel and we roll it here,” Mar­alack said.

He said that Transnet spends R300 bil­lion a year to im­port rails and would now get them from the mill.

More than 300 trucks a day de­liver coal that will be ex­ported us­ing the rail­way in­fra­struc­ture.

“The rail­way in­fra­struc­ture was pre­vi­ously used to bring coal to feed us. The stock­piles are now loaded into trains and ex­ported. It benefits ju­nior min­ers that don’t have this in­fra­struc­ture,” Mar­alack said. Mar­alack added that there were also 700 hectares of

land that could be used for an agri­cul­tural academy.

That land is already leased out to farm­ers.

Lime for agri­cul­ture, he said, was be­ing ex­tracted from the waste dumps that had piled up over the past 50 years.

“If this place was scrapped, the en­vi­ron­men­tal legacy would be left to gov­ern­ment,” said Mar­alack.

Mpumalanga Pre­mier David Mabuza and his Cabi­net vis­ited the in­dus­trial park last week and he pledged his sup­port.

“I spoke to Cabi­net mem­bers about the in­dus­trial park and the ten­ants you have here; they were still the­o­ris­ing it, you have it and it is already work­ing. We are there­fore go­ing to have a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the ten­ants who are here, and we will get more and more to come and work here,” Mabuza said.

Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium crum­bled fi­nan­cially due to a com­bi­na­tion of mar­ket and op­er­a­tional fac­tors.

The mar­ket fac­tors in­cluded slow eco­nomic growth and cheap im­ported Chi­nese prod­ucts.

“When we tried to take out a lot of excesses in the first quar­ter of 2015, it was too late,” said Mar­alack, “and the share­hold­ers only put in R380 mil­lion, and there­after re­fused to do anything.”

An in­vestor in Hong Kong promised to come on board, but could not pro­vide guar­an­tees worth more than R1 bil­lion by Jan­uary 2015.

The money in­vested here makes this place a na­tional key point … scrap­ping va­cant it would be a ma­jor loss to SA with all the equip­ment, plants and fac­to­ries on site

HOT AND HAP­PEN­ING The Highveld In­dus­trial Park has a struc­tural mill that man­u­fac­tures rails, con­struc­tion col­umns and beams for min­ing com­pany ArcelorMit­tal

BACK TO WORK Af­ter delist­ing and re­trench­ing its en­tire work­force of 1 800, the Evraz Highveld Steel and Vana­dium plant closed its doors, but new life has been breathed into the space, thanks to some in­no­va­tive think­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.