JSW Could Invest In ‘Ridiculously Exciting’ Plan With a Possible Total of $500M

Possible Total Of $500 Million

JSW Steel has made its presence known in Mingo Junction with the placement of its new sign at the main entrance to the plant off Commercial Avenue near Ohio 7. Photo by Paul Giannamore

MINGO JUNCTION — The restart of the electric arc furnace could be joined by a second furnace and a total investment of $500 million in rebuilding the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. mill in Mingo Junction.

Officials of JSW Steel, a leading Indian steelmaker, announced their plans and signed certificates Thursday with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross during the SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor, Maryland, across the Potomac River from Washington.

JSW initially will spend $250 million to restart the electric arc furnace and refurbish the hot strip mill and slab caster.

If market conditions support it, a second phase would include another $250 million investment for a second EAF and additional hot strip mill equipment, pending the outcome of feasibility studies and permit approvals, the steelmaker said.

John Hritz, president and chief executive officer of JSW Steel USA Inc., said, “It is real, it is happening and it is a phenomenal vision. They have investments all over the world, and, of course, everything has to have good return on investment.

“What is happening now in Mingo Junction is so ridiculously exciting.”

He said the company will be installing “the highest technology that exists” and will add the second EAF later.

“These facilities are going to be operating for decades to come,” Hritz said. “Mingo, it is just going to be so phenomenal to watch that whole community be revitalized. I’m just very, very thrilled to be a part of all of this.”

Hritz joined JSW USA at its Baytown, Texas, facility in 2015. The company is installing an EAF there to create an integrated plate and pipe mill. JSW bought that plant in 2007, according to Jayant Acharya, board member and commercial and marketing director for JSW Steel Ltd.

With a second EAF, the Mingo Junction mill would become a 3 million-ton-per-year plant. W-P produced about 2.5 million tons, according to its 2006 annual report. Late that year, the company would begin going through a succession of owners, including Esmark; OAO Severstal; RG Steel; and Acero Junction. Acero bought the EAF and hot mill from Frontier Industries in December 2016. Frontier, which acquired the property out of the RG bankruptcy, had scrapped most of the northern end of the plant, including the ironmaking blast furnaces and support facilities.

The current EAF dates to 2004 and previous owners had issues with getting it to produce at its potential capacity.

“Last year, the U.S. saw the addition of more than 4,000 factories,” said Ross. “We have turned the corner. In prior years, generally, we were closing factories. Now we’re opening factories. It sounds a lot better. It feels a lot better and it is a lot better.”

He said JSW’s $500 million investment will employ 500 workers. He said he agrees with those who think the recent enactment of the Section 232 steel tariffs by the Trump administration is working.

“The naysayers were saying it is going to wreck the economy,” said Ross. “Well, here we are with new investment, brand new technology and what’s probably going to be the most efficient group of mills in the whole country, maybe in the whole world. It proves the president’s strategy is working.”

Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, said, “This is wonderful news for Mingo, Jefferson County, and all local job-seekers. The port authority is looking forward to interactions with JSW as they embark on this multi-phase effort of plant modernizations, including more production capacity, that was announced today. Stable and attractive job opportunities for local citizens is always our No. 1 goal as an economic development agency. Jefferson County took a great step in that direction today.”

JSW is India’s largest exporter of steel with a presence in 100 countries.

According to the WorldSteel website, by tonnage, ArcelorMittal, which originated in India and owns the tin mill and associated production facilities in Weirton, was the leading steelmaker by tonnage in 2017, at 97.03 million tons. JSW was ranked 19th in the world, at 16.06 million tons.

Acharya said Mingo Junction includes a 3 million ton a year hot strip mill, a 1.5 million-ton annual production EAF and a 2.8 million-ton caster. He said the plans are to make the plant into a 3 million-ton-a-year producer.

Hritz said he started as an electrician’s apprentice at Youngstown Steel at age 18 and earned an engineering degree at night. He has held leadership positions at a variety of steel firms, including nearly 14 years in the executive ranks of AK Steel, concluding as president in 2003, and Armco Steel prior to that. He also earned a law degree from the University of Akron.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in May approved Acero Junction’s request for a lower electricity rate, which is transferable to the new owners.

Acero purchased the 80-inch rolling mill and electric arc furnace from Frontier in December 2016. The plant had not made steel since 2009 when OAO Severstal idled the mill.