28 May 2021

The region’s peak business advocacy organisation, Business Illawarra, has today welcomed the announcement by the NSW Government that Bluescope Steel’s blast furnace upgrade at Port Kembla Steelworks has been declared Critical State Significant Infrastructure, and reaffirmed the need for a workable approvals framework to ensure that it can be supplied with metallurgical coal.

“This decision today reaffirms the Illawarra’s pre-eminence as a steelmaking region, and means that this $700 million investment in our region, together with the 1,000 construction jobs it will create, can become a reality,” said Executive Director of Business Illawarra, Adam Zarth.

“Equally, it provides greater certainty to the 4,500 workers and contractors employed directly by BlueScope in the Illawarra, and the vast network of related businesses and their workforces that are part of its supply chain.”

“To further shore up this economic security, we need a workable approvals process for metallurgical coal mining projects, including for the reconsideration of South32's Dendrobium mine expansion proposal, given that BlueScope’s blast furnaces will continue to rely on a ready supply of high-quality coking coal in the short-to-medium term.” 

“The direct economic loss from the cessation of steelmaking in the Illawarra would be upwards of $2.4 billion, and there would be regional loss to Wollongong of around $4 billion. It is clear that BlueScope remains a vital part of our economy and community.”

“These are uncertain times for energy intensive industries such as steel manufacturing, and we have long advocated for nuanced policy in the transition to clean energies like hydrogen-powered steel production which is still some time away.” 

“This step from the State Government indicates that they also see the importance of supporting businesses that will likely be most affected by such a transition, such as heavy industry.” 

“We have also previously welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of a $750 million program to help business develop low emissions technologies. We will continue to advocate on behalf of Bluescope and other local businesses for the long term benefit of the Illawarra economy and community.”