The Cape Town Iron and Steel Works (Cisco) plant has been officially opened in Kuils River, near Cape Town. The plant has created 300 direct and another 120 indirect jobs, with another 200 in the pipeline.
Established originally in 1967, the factory was closed by Murray & Roberts (M&R) in 2010, with the loss of 360 jobs. DHT, the new Turkish owners of Cisco have invested R550-million since acquiring the company in 2012 to expand and upgrade the steel plant, which produces steel from scrap using electric arc furnaces.
“When I visited these premises a few years ago, the place was shut down. Through entrepreneurship and energy you have turned an empty space into a productive workplace,” said Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel at the official launch of the plant, on Wednesday.
Cisco’s products, which are used typically in the manufacturing and construction industries, are sold domestically within South Africa, as well as exported to the rest of Southern Africa and other international regions.
At full production, Cisco expects to source 500 000 t/y of scrap metal.
The reopening of the Cisco factory follows the introduction of a trade directive issued by Patel that provides local steel mills with greater access to scrap metal, through a price preference system that favours local industry.
“Scrap metal, whether in our homes, workplaces and in trains and cars that are scrapped, is a national resource. For many years this resource was unused,” said Patel.
He said the government was partnering very effectively with the private sector on the Cisco project.
“The company has invested R550-million, while the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has [provided] about R230-million. Here you have a combination of scrap lying around that can be used, finance from foreign investors and the IDC, know-how and workers ready to work.”
He said steel products that had been produced by Cisco since October had gone into local products in the Western Cape, as well as been exported to the US, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Turkish Ambassador to South Africa Elif Comoglu Ulgen said the investment by DHT was the second-largest investment by a Turkish firm in South Africa.
“We believe in the project and are going to continually work to improve it. We want to contribute to the local economy,” said DHT president Dagistan Turanli.
The plant will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While the jobs created as a result of the reopening of the Cisco plant have been welcomed, the plant has raised concerns in the surrounding community. Community members say they are unhappy, both with the noise pollution, as well as the facility's emissions.
The #SaveKuilsRiver action group says 692 complaints have been lodged on its social media platforms over the past few months, with 175 complaints formally lodged with Cisco, as well as the City of Cape Town’s air quality department.
The group says an ongoing court case on behalf of the residents versus Cisco about the noise compliance has been appealed twice by Cisco, with the next date set sometime in June.
The action group says some houses are 70 m away from the plant and that the sound of the furnace and the scrap metal being ‘shredded’ throughout the day and night is very loud. Community members want the plant to undergo a thorough environmental-impact assessment as it has been substantially upgraded since it was acquired by DHT.
New houses had been sold in the area since the plant was closed down by M&R.
Cisco GM of operations Heinrich Kriel told Engineering News Online on Wednesday the plant had been sold by M&R as a going concern in an industrial area.
He said the city had done noise tests during the night and confirmed that the noise was within acceptable levels. Cisco had also put silencers on the stacks to reduce the noise, as well as repairing and sealing the perished roof to control emissions.
“We are in the process of doing emissions monitoring and testing. That report will be submitted within the next two weeks.”
Patel expressed concern for the surrounding community, but emphasised that the project created much-needed jobs.
“With an unemployment rate of 26%, our priority must be to create more employment opportunities. Ultimately, in the big trade-offs in society, the priority we are placing on jobs is very high throughout the country. Our people have a great need for jobs, but also an environment that is conducive to a good quality of life. We will work to find that balance,” Patel told Engineering News Online.
City of Cape Town director of Enterprise and Investment Lance Greyling said the city was keen to encourage investment and jobs, but would heed the concerns of community members.
“The city is looking into the issues to find a way of striking a balance between a healthy environment and ensuring that people's rights aren’t infringed – and making sure that we can keep this productive workplace and its jobs in operation,” Greyling told Engineering News Online.