The statement comes following reports that Gupta has held initial talks with government over the possible purchase of parts of Tata Steel’s UK business, including Port Talbot steelworks.
Tata Steel – which announced last week that it was selling its loss-making UK businesses – has said it will close the plant unless it finds a buyer.
In an interview with Bloomberg’s news channel, Gupta, the founder and chief executive of international steel and non-ferrous metals operations, Liberty House, said that the conversion would be a “massive undertaking” but that it could be done.
He also said that he didn’t think it would be necessary for the British Government to nationalise the plant but that help might be needed to bring about a deal to buy Tata’s assets.
During the interview Gupta said the plant’s business model is no longer economic. “What is more difficult is the blast furnaces, the liquid end of the steelmaking,” he said.
Converting the plant to recycle scrap metal would involve closing the site’s blast furnaces and could still cost thousands of jobs.
“The UK imports all its raw material,” Gupta said. “That wasn’t the case when this plant was set up. Then, the raw material was produced domestically. That raw material is now exhausted. Now we import iron ore and coal. We import nearly three tonnes of material to make one tonne of steel.
“When we compete against producers that have their own raw material, obviously we are not going to be competitive. This is much more of a challenge to sustain.”
“Instead of making carbon steel from iron ore and coal, we could make green steel and make a long-term sustainable business model”
Gupta said there were two solutions to this problem, either import slabs, or use domestically available scrap.
“[The] UK exports nearly seven million tonnes of scrap. That could be all turned into steel,” he said.
“Instead of making carbon steel from iron ore and coal, we could make green steel and make a long-term sustainable business model.
“It is tougher. You have to close down blast furnaces, not overnight, it is a transition. But you have to close the blast furnaces and erect arc furnaces. It is a major investment programme. It is tougher. But it is a solution.”