Posco, Korea's largest steel maker, reportedly has broken ground on its sixth automotive steel-sheet plant in Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province.

Once the newest continuous galvanised line plant is completed in May 2006 to churn out an estimated 400,000 metric tonnes a year, Posco's automotive steel sheet-making capacity will rise to an annual two million tons at its Gwangyang mill, the Korea Herald said.

Posco officials told the paper the facility is part of the steel giant's plans to nurture the mill into an exclusive headquarters for producing sophisticated steel sheets for vehicles. Currently, it runs four galvanized sheet plants, with a fifth to be completed by October 2005.

The company will invest about 190 billion won for this addition, which the company believes will greatly benefit the local automotive sector in the face of fierce overseas competition.

"There are only a few steel manufacturers in the world that are capable of producing galvanized steel sheets used in cars. So with our enhanced production capacity, we hope to contribute to a more stable supply of steel sheets for the domestic automotive industry," a Posco spokesman told the Korea Herald.

The paper said the global steel industry increasingly depends on newer, sophisticated technology, meaning that the development of new technology is crucial to beat the competition from developing nations, namely China.

Posco also recently broke ground in Pohang, its headquarters in North Gyeongsang Province, on its Finex plant that uses an innovative new technology to produce steel by eliminating coking coal from the process, the Korea Herald said.