The factory owned by Tembo Steel Mills.

Uganda and the entire East African Community’s dependence on scrap metal as raw material could soon be over thanks to the construction of a new iron ore smelting plant.

The iron ore smelting plant has been constructed by Tembo Steels Uganda Ltd in Iganga, eastern Uganda at a cost of $200m, with a capacity to process 1.2 million tonnes of metal annually.

Sanjay Awasthi, chairman of Tembo Steel, is quoted by The East African newspaper as saying that the plant is the largest in East Africa and can able satisfy the region’s iron ore needs.

 “This is East Africa’s largest integrated steel plant that has forward to backward integration of steel,” Awasthi is quoted as saying at the weekend.

Uganda spends over $360 million annually on the importation of steel.

Pramukh Steel Ltd, Madhvani Steel and Kabale Steel are also building iron ore smelting plants.

This comes as East African countries face increased vandalism of high voltage power pylons, infrastructure supporting CCTV cameras, and road furniture, with the vandals seeking to get iron.

Kenya recently banned the sale or trade in scrap metal to tame vandalism of infrastructure.

The region is facing scarcity of cast iron scrap. Tanzania and Rwanda used to be sources of cast iron, but it is no longer available in those countries.