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Port Pirie smelter redevelopment

Nyrstar opens multi-metals facility.

Commemoration plaque unveiled in January for Nyrstar’s redeveloped Port Pirie multi-metals facility.
L-R: Nyrstar CEO Hilmar Rode, Premier Jay Weatherill, Minister for Regional Development Geoff Brock and Nyrstar Chairman Martyn Konig at the commemoration plaque unveiled in January for Nyrstar’s redeveloped Port Pirie multi-metals facility. (Courtesy of Nyrstar; photo 416459)

A significant milestone for Port Pirie was marked in January 2018 with the official commemoration of a redeveloped $660 million multi-metals facility that will substantially improve air quality in the Mid North town.

Nyrstar Chairman Martyn Konig and Premier Jay Weatherill unveiled a commemoration plaque marking the completion of construction and start of commissioning of Nyrstar’s redeveloped smelter.

The facility, in constant operation since 1889, has been transformed with a modern enclosed bath smelting oxidation furnace – Outotec Ausmelt® TSL (top submerged lance) Furnace – and off-gas and metal fume capture system, together with a larger acid plant harnessing new technology.

A separate $85 million investment by Air Liquide in a new oxygen plant adjacent to the smelter supplies industrial gases, oxygen, nitrogen and air to the TSL furnace.

First feed into the new TSL furnace was achieved in October 2017. A ramp-up period is expected to allow the plant to reach full name plate production levels within two years.

At full production, throughput of feed materials is forecast to increase by more than 70% to 620,000 tonnes per annum (tpa). Lead concentrate – currently sourced from CBH Resources’ Rasp mine in Broken Hill and Endeavor mine in Cobar, both in New South Wales, the Rosebery mine in Tasmania, Cannington mine in Queensland and overseas mining operations – is to increase to 360,000 tpa.

The TSL furnace also has greater flexibility to process a wider variety of feed materials, allowing Nyrstar to process more internal residues from its European and United States zinc smelters, a four-fold increase to 260,000 tpa. The facility will continue to process smaller quantities of paragoethite residue from Nyrstar’s Hobart zinc smelter, and electronic waste such as CRT TV and computer screens.

Primary metal production of lead is expected to increase to 250,000 tpa, along with 7,000 t of copper cathode, 180,000 troy ounces of gold and 25 million troy ounces of silver, with secondary production of sulfuric acid, cadmium, thallium, tellurium and selenium concentrate.

Opportunities to broaden the metals recovered is under consideration as Nyrstar seeks to fully exploit the TSL furnace’s capabilities. This includes processing greater volumes and types of e-waste, and additional metallurgical circuits to capture high-margin free metals such as antimony, platinum, palladium and rhodium.

Background

The Government of South Australia and Nyrstar’s Port Pirie Transformation Steering Committee have been working since 2011 to realise this investment for Port Pirie. Led by the Resources Infrastructure and Investment Task Force, it is a collaborative relationship with Nyrstar and government agencies.

An innovative financing package was designed, with the government underwriting a guarantee to external investors contributing $291.25 million towards the $660 million investment.

Community benefits

A step change in environment performance will result in significantly reduced lead and sulfur emissions from the new facility. By tackling lead-in-air, the government and Nyrstar can make inroads into legacy lead. A Targeted Lead Abatement Program for Port Pirie aims to leverage these benefits, reducing lead exposure in the city to improve health outcomes for young children.

This international investment has helped create a new sense of optimism in Port Pirie, highlighted by renewal and infrastructure projects within the CBD that are leveraging off the transformation of the Nyrstar facility.

‘Nyrstar is proud and committed to continue to be a fundamentally important part of the economic and social landscape in Port Pirie.’

Martyn Konig, Nyrstar Chairman

– Margot Gall

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