IISCO Steel Plant

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Public Sector Undertaking
Industry Iron & Steel
Founded 1918
Headquarters Burnpur, Asansol India
Key people
P. K. Singh (CEO)
Products Structurals, Rods, Pig Iron
Number of employees

IISCO Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India Limited, located at Burnpur in Asansol, is an integrated steel plant with an installed capacity of producing 2.5 million tonnes of liquid steel. The turbulent history of the plant, starting from its pioneering days, has found it a place in industrial history.

It was the second integrated steel plant, after Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (TISCO) at Jamshedpur, to come up in India and for many years, these two were the only steel plants in the country. It has rich history that goes back to 1870, the days when James Erskine pioneered the production of iron in this country at nearby Kulti. Modern metallurgy was introduced to India at Kulti with the setting up of the first blast furnace using coal instead of charcoal.

Emergence of Kulti[edit]

James Erskine founded the Bengal Iron Works in 1870. His open top furnaces using raw coal (instead of coke as is now done), poor grade iron ore available locally and bullock carts for transportation went into operation in 1875 at Kulti, then better known as Kendwa.

India's first blast furnace (open top)with coke oven battery in the foreground at Kulti

In the first decade of the last century Kulti also produced steel utilising open hearth furnaces. However, the efforts did not survive the competition from imported steel. Therefore, although Kulti was the first plant in the country to produce both iron and steel, credit is normally given to TISCO because it did it on a continuous basis. World steel production was around 5 million tonnes, against more than a billion tonnes at present.

Operating an industrial unit in those days was extremely difficult.[citation needed] The plant at Kulti changed hands many times. For some time, it was operated under the Public Works Department of the Government. That was in an age when even the concept of public sector had not germinated. Somewhere in the last decade of the nineteenth century Sir Rajendranath Mookerjee and Sir Acquin Martin, who had together founded Martin & Co. bought over the plant at Kulti and helped it to survive.

They were also responsible for opening the first iron ore mine at Pansiraburu in Singhbhum district in what was then Bengal and now Jharkhand, in 1901. The discovery of iron ore effectively laid the foundation for the iron and steel industry in India.

Burnpur gets going[edit]

The possibility of a second steel plant in the country was opened up with disruption of supplies of iron and steel from Europe during the First World War. Burn & Co. promoted The Indian Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. in 1918. G.H.Fairhurst is credited with having founded the plant at Burnpur. The blast furnaces were not of the open top type as at Kulti and coke oven batteries were also built to provide coke for the furnaces. However, bullock carts continued to be used for transportation. The first blast furnace went into operation in 1922 and the second in 1924.

Amongst those associated with the plant at Burnpur were Sir Rajen Mookerjee and T.Leslie Martin (Sir Acquin’s son). Sir Biren Mookerjee, Sir Rajen’s son, who had a role in the growth and development of the plant joined a few years later. Bengal Iron was merged with IISCO in 1936. In those days, the plants used to export pig iron to Japan.

Steel Corporation of Bengal (SCOB) set up the steel plant at Burnpur adjacent to the iron making facilities of IISCO in 1939. The two were merged and operated under the managing agency of Martin Burn in the early fifties. The plant was expanded to an annual capacity of 1 million tonnes and it achieved rated capacity in the early sixties. IISCO was a highly profit making concern and its shares were quoted on London Stock Exchange. Within the country, it had the reputation of being the best place for investment even by widows.[citation needed] Investments were considered safe and sound.[citation needed]

IISCO owed its success largely to the efficient top management team, who steered the company most effectively.[citation needed]Over the years, that team included H.V.Peeling, Ashok Chaterjee, John McCracken, F.W.A.Lahmeyer and N.R.Dutt. They were management legends, long departed but still remembered for their contribution to the growth and development of the steel plant and life in the township. They took IISCO to great heights of glory. With high production and profitability, life in the townships was enriched. A new township was built at Chhotodighari. It was a model township in those days, with numbered roads lined with flowering trees, an effective sewerage system and underground electric connections. Kulti Works pioneered the production of spun pipes in 1945. Thereafter, the foundries at Kulti were expanded and the iron making facilities were dismantled.

Trade union activity[edit]

The first trade union was established in IISCO in 1943. Prof. Abdul Bari was associated with it for some time. Gopeswar, who later became national president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), operated at Burnpur and was all along been associated with IISCO. He has represented the workers on the boards of many companies. The famous strike in 1953 led to the formation of Action Committee, which later emerged as a wing of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). Since its split, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) played a big role in IISCO affairs, their leaders being Chandrasekhar Mukherjee and Bamapada Mukherjee. Amongst other leaders who need a mention are Taher Hussein and Nitish Sett of AITUC.

Modernisation and expansion[edit]

IISCO was taken over by the central government in 1972 and made a fully owned subsidiary of SAIL in 1978.[1]

The modernisation and expansion programme of the IISCO Steel Plant was flagged off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in December 2006.[2] The 2.5 million tonnes plant, modernized and expanded at a cost of Rs. 16,000 crores, was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 10 May 2015.[1]Amongst the facilities in the modern plant are a 7-metre tall coke oven battery with 74 ovens, a coke dry cooling plant and a by-product plant, two 204 sq. m. sinter machines, a 4,162 cu m blast furnace with coal dust injection system (the largest in the country), three 150-tonne BOF converters, two 6-strand billet casters and one 4-strand bloom-cum-beam blank caster, a 0.6 million tonnes per annum heavy section mill, a 0.5 mtpa wire rod mill and a 0.75 mtpa bar mill.[3][4]

See also[edit]


  • History of The Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. by Dr. N.R.Srinivasan
  • SAIL News published by Steel Authority of India Limited.


  1. ^ a b "India’s largest blast funace plant opens". Bengal. The Statesman 11 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Dutta, Indrani. "PM to open 18,000-cr steel plant today". National, Other States. The Hindu, 10 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "IISCO steel plant begins trial run". The Hindu Business Line, 16 February 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "PM dedicates to the nation SAIL’s modernized and expanded IISCO Steel Plant at Burnpur". Press Release dated 10 May 2015. Steel Authority of India Limited. Retrieved 12 May 2015. 

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