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IISCO Steel Plant of Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) is located at Burnpur, near Asansol. The turbulent history of the plant, starting from its pioneering days, has found it a place in industrial history.

It was the second integrated steel plant, after Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. (TISCO) at Jamshedpur, to come up in India and for many years, these two were the only steel plants in the country. It has rich history that goes back to the days when James Erskine pioneered the production of iron in this country at nearby Kulti. Modern metallurgy was introduced to India at Kulti with the setting up of the first blast furnace using coal instead of charcoal.

Emergence of Kulti

James Erskine founded the Bengal Iron Works in 1870. His open top furnaces using raw coal (instead of coke as is now done), poor grade iron ore available locally and bullock carts for transportation went into operation in 1875 at Kulti, then better known as Kendwa. It was a big leap forward for Indian metallurgy. Although India had been producing steel from ancient times, all such attempts were made with charcoal. Coal was discovered in India in 1774 and coalmining started in the Asansol-Ranigunj area around 1820-1830.In the first decade of the last century Kulti also produced steel utilising open hearth furnaces. However, the efforts did not survive the competition from imported steel. Therefore, although Kulti was the first plant in the country to produce both iron and steel, credit is normally...
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