Nucor Corp. said Thursday purchase contracts for most of the major equipment at its 2.5-million ton direct reduced iron plant is underway in St. James Parish, and construction work has begun on the project.

The majority of the equipment will begin arriving next year, and the company is on schedule to complete construction and begin operating the $750 million plant in mid-2013, according to Nucor. The plant’s management team is also largely in place.

The announcement was included in Nucor’s second-quarter earnings. Nucor reported a profit of $299.8 million, or 94 cents per share, for the quarter, compared to $159.8 million, or 50 cents per share, a year earlier.

The company said it managed to achieve those results despite the impact of the Japanese tsunami and earthquakes on customers in the manufacturing and auto industries, and lost sales from weather-related power outages and river flooding in North America. The company was helped by higher steel prices, which were 21 percent higher per ton than in the second quarter of 2010.

If the Charlotte, N.C., steelmaker carries out all of its plans for St. James Parish, Nucor will end up investing more than $3 billion in the facility over five phases of construction. Total employment would reach 1,250 people by 2019.