Senior Political Reporter
The Opposition United National Congress (UNC) has noted that Wednesday’s announcement of the bid by TT Iron Steel (TTIS) to acquire the Point Lisas iron and steel plant came immediately after Tuesday’s word of the local government election date.
And the UNC says it will be monitoring developments concerning the reopening of the facility closely.
UNC chairman Dave Tancoo stated this on Wednesday after it was announced that the TTIS had signed a sale and purchase agreement with Christopher Kelshall, the liquidator of ArcelorMittal Point Lisas, to acquire the iron and steel plant in the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
TTIS stated that completion of the transaction is subject to approval by the Government and the project will create 1,000-plus jobs during the refurbishment and start-up phase. When fully operational, the plant will create long term employment for 500 skilled workers and indirectly create many more jobs, TTIS added.
UNC chairman Tancoo said, “As a patriotic citizen I welcome the entry of any business venture that will provide a source of employment for citizens, generate foreign exchange and contribute to the domestic economy.
“The promise of a more environmentally friendly production of iron and steel through the company’s stated commitment to move towards ‘green hydrogen’ based production ‘in the coming years’ is very promising.
Tancoo added, “The disdain with which the Government treated the industry previously, culminated in the exit of ArcelorMittal and the closure of the industry to the detriment of the thousands of direct and indirect employees, and the equally reprehensible closure of Petrotrin had severely traumatised the communities of South Trinidad in addition to the national economy.
“More recently the undermining and closure of the locally owned and operated scrap iron industry suggests a Government willing to use its authority to shut down business ventures unless they were willing to adhere to arrogance of Government’s whim and fancy.”
Tancoo added said that it was not lost on the population that the release came immediately following the Prime Minister’s forced announcement of the local government elections and during a time when the country is assessing the abysmal performance of the PNM government.
“I recall a similar announcement relating to the union’s acquisition of Petrotrin, which turned out to be a farce,” said Tancoo.
“I also recall the fiasco in regard to the PNM Cabinet being forced to cancel a deal with a hotel chain after the public was made aware of the concessions being secretly awarded.
“We will be paying close attention to this development and will continue to hold the government to account at every step,” Tancoo said.
In its news release on Wednesday, TT Iron pointed out that the Point Lisas iron and steel plant utilises low-carbon emission technologies for steel production which it believes are critical to decarbonise the global steel industry.
The company noted that greater than 70 per cent of steel globally is made using coal-based blast furnaces which emit roughly two tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of steel produced.
The company said, “The Point Lisas Iron and Steel Plant is based on electric arc furnaces and direct reduction using natural gas, a green process with less than half of the emissions from a coal-based steelmaking facility. While this process is used in less than 10 per cent of steel mills globally we believe it is the future of steelmaking,” said the company.
“Initially, TT Iron intends to restart (1) Direct Reduced Iron unit #3 (“DR3”)—a MIDREX DRI unit built in 1999 with 1.35 million tons per year capacity and (2) the Electric Arc Furnace based melt shop and attached rolling mill. TT Iron intends to produce value-added steel products for export and for local consumption within Trinidad and Tobago.”
TT Iron noted that the facility at Point Lisas can be further decarbonised by substituting natural gas with green hydrogen and we are working closely with partners in Trinidad to develop a local green hydrogen supply chain.
“After it has been restarted, the facility will also be the largest recycling operation in the Caribbean consuming scrap and waste tyres generated in Trinidad and Tobago to make steel products,” according to TT Iron.