Gupta urges Aust to think big on steel

British Industrialist Sanjeev Gupta believes Australia can become a leading global steel producer

Australia should be a global leader in steel production and the downstream processing of its resources, British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta says.

Mr Gupta says Australia has abundant mineral wealth and currently exports 180 million tonnes of metallurgical coal and 850 million tonnes of iron ore each year.

He's told an industry gathering in Adelaide that such resources are enough to make 500 million tonnes of steel, yet annual production is just five million tonnes.

The billionaire, who recently took charge of Whyalla's troubled steelworks, pointed to Australia's weaknesses, including high energy and labour costs.

But he argued these could be overcome by the use of modern technology and the continued fall in the cost of renewable energy.

"This would allow for the creation of a sustainable industry based on the utilisation of domestic resources, capitalisation of strengths and mitagation of weaknesses," his presentation to the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy said.

Mr Gupta reaffirmed his promised investment strategy in South Australia, including a 90 megawatt pumped hydro power plant, large-scale solar power production at Whyalla and the development of a 100 megawatt lithium-ion battery.

His company is also exploring further opportunities including a possible foray into the copper industry where it sees an opportunity for local processing.

"We are therefore exploring opportunities to build copper smelting and refinery capabilities in Whyalla," he said.

"This would be consistent with our mission to add value to Australia's resources industry."