The proposed Euroa Steel Plant Project (formerly known as Boulder Steel).
The proposed Euroa Steel Plant Project (formerly known as Boulder Steel). Contributed

Crunch time for $5 billion steel project

CRUNCH time is coming for a proposed steel plant in Gladstone steel project, with a key group of Malaysian investors to visit next month in the hope they will commit $5 billion to the project.

Director Ross Johnson and CEO David Simpson told the audience at the Gladstone Engineering Alliance Major Industry Conference they wanted to be ready for construction in January 2016.

"We're envisaging local companies will take the lead and they may bring in others with skills they don't have themselves," he said.

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With 1800 operational jobs up for grabs, Mr Johnson said he wasn't sure Gladstone could provide all the numbers, so they envisaged there may be a "camp" situation to begin with until any employees from out of town could be settled.

"Our work situation is such that we'd like to think we can provide jobs for two partners of a family, and one thing we're conscious of is childcare, so we will also be incorporating childcare facilities on or off site," he said.

The Malaysian investment team will visit in November for 10 days to review the project.

"It's crunch time for us. You may never see us again after Christmas or you'll see us all the time," Mr Simpson said.

He also defined how the company structure would now work, following some confusion in the community.

"Boulder is the name that many people will be familiar… it's just going to float off into the distance and do something else not involved in the project," he said.

He said the new major shareholder of Boulder Steel was essentially the former Boulder Steel Rescue Group, now known as Gladstone Steel Pty Ltd, and there were arrangements between the three groups that would take Boulder out of the project.

The plant has been designed to produce five million tonnes per annum of high quality steel in bloom and round billet form for export to overseas finishing plants.

No appetite to invest

TWO projects that would see 2200 permanent jobs come to Gladstone have struggled to get financial backing.

The developers say it's because of the poor Australian investment attitude towards manufacturing.

Speakers from the Euroa Steel Plant Project (formerly known as Boulder Steel) told the audience at day two of the Gladstone Engineering Alliance Major Industry Conference that Australian investors didn't believe manufacturing could be done efficiently.

CEO David Simpson said he believed there wasn't "any appetite in this country for large-scale manufacturing".

"They get scared for labour costs, but... it's really not an issue for us," he said.

Mr Simpson said the rest of the steel project was all local, "but you won't get people to move on their money easily on a project of this scale".

Queensland Energy Resources operations manager Chris Anderson said his company had had a similar experience.

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