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Big River Steel said on track, awaits permits

Keywords: Tags  steel mill, Big River Steel, John Correnti, Arkansas plant, Clif Chitwood, Mississippi County economic developer, EPA, Army Corps of Engineers air permits

NEW YORK — Big River Steel LLC’s proposed $1.1-billion steel mill is moving forward as planned, with groundbreaking expected as soon as November.

Equity holders and other financiers will be visiting the proposed 1,200-acre site some three miles south of Osceola, Ark., June 25, Clif Chitwood, Mississippi County economic developer, told AMM, while engineers are finalizing "tweaks," including rail layouts on the land.

"We’re still on schedule to the best of my knowledge," he said. "We’re expecting a number of equity holders and financiers to come (June 25) to take a look at the site. That should be a smooth meeting, after which we’re expecting a financial closing in October and November. As soon as the finance closes, we’ll purchase the land and the project will be ready to start construction."

But moving forward still requires certain air and land permits, he added, including a stringent air permit through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

"They’re working through the permitting process right now. There’s no real problem, it’s just that the process takes a while to work through," he said. "(The air permit) is the only major one that could actually affect things, while all the other ones being worked through the U.S. (Army) Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, are more discrete engineering problems that have solutions."

However, heavy construction at the mill could face "inconvenient delays" due to corn harvest season, Chitwood added.

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has also jumped on board through its Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program, which provides certain tools and resources for communities to incorporate growth techniques into future city planning, according to its website. Once selected, communities receive direct technical assistance from a team of planning and policy contractors. While the program doesn’t offer a direct grant, it tries to match communities with state or local funding.

A spokesman for the program said that with the announcement of plans to construct Big River Steel, the East Arkansas Planning and Development District, along with other local partners, have been looking to capitalize on existing infrastructure to develop housing options.

"We’re planning for the developments to ensure for the best quality life and environment outcomes," he said.

Big River Steel, led by industry veteran John D. Correnti, aims to supply steel sheet to the oil and gas, automotive and electrical industries. The proposed mill has been overwhelmingly supported by local legislators because of the promise of some 550 jobs paying an average of $75,000 per year.

Others, though, have opposed the mill on grounds that there is already overcapacity in the U.S. sheet market, including Nucor Corp., which has its nearby Hickman plant. Last week, Nucor executive chairman Daniel R. DiMicco told participants during the Steel Success Strategies XXVIII conference in New York that the project makes "no financial sense" due to industry overcapacity. But the Charlotte, N.C.-based steelmaker will "deal with it," he added.

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