Nyrstar Port Pirie smelter shuts down again

Nyrstar has shut down its Port Pirie smelter again, just days after restarting operations following a two-month unplanned shutdown earlier this year.

Aug 13, 2019, updated Aug 13, 2019
Nyrstar's Port Pirie smelter

Nyrstar's Port Pirie smelter

The lead smelter had been closed down because of an unexpected outage at its blast furnace since May this year.

The plant did not reopen until August 1.

On August 3, a new incident involving molten metal and gas escaping from a furnace caused the plant to shut down once again, a SafeWork SA spokesperson told InDaily this morning.

The spokesperson added that the plant has remained closed since.

Nystar yesterday released a statement to international wire service Reuters announcing the shutdown, causing world lead prices to hit a two-week high.

“An unidentified incident occurred in the hearth in the primary smelter and caused a forced shutdown of the plant with no injuries,” Nyrstar said in the statement.

“Repairs will result in the (furnace) being down for a number of weeks and a number of options are being considered including a re-start of the sinter plant to maintain production.” 

According to Reuters, benchmark lead on the London Metal Exchange hit its highest level since July 26 at $US2,101.50 per tonne but closed 0.2 per cent lower at $US2,065.

InDaily attempted to contact Nyrstar’s representatives this morning but have yet to receive a response.

Analysts said the latest shutdown was expected to keep prices high.

“There is uncertainty on when the smelter will be back up and running on a reliable basis and this should support prices,” said Capital Economics Senior Commodities Economist Ross Strachan.

“But it’s still fairly gloomy on the economic background with the trade war,” Strachan said, adding this could cap gains in base metals.

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During the first five months of the year, the global lead deficit increased to 42,000 tonnes from 34,000 tonnes in the same period last year, according to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group.

Inventories of lead at LME-approved warehouses fell 800 tonnes to 82,475 tonnes, having jumped about 50 per cent since hitting their lowest since 2009 three weeks ago.

Low inventories have created a premium for cash nickel to the three-month contract, which by Friday stood at about $US14 a tonne, although this was down from nearly $US30 on Thursday.

Shortage concerns are exacerbated by one entity holding between 50 per cent and 79 per cent of LME warrants.

The economic outlook has deteriorated in all parts of the world over the northern summer due to an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China, a survey showed on Monday.

Global commodity firm Trafigura, previously Nystar’s biggest shareholder, took ownership of the company under a deal approved by the State Government last month.

Treasurer Rob Lucas told InDaily this month’s shutdown would have no impact on the deal.

“Appropriate government agencies were informed of the incident, including SafeWork SA and the Environment Protection Authority,” he said.

“The smelter is investigating a restart of the legacy Sinter Plant to continue supply to the secondary Blast Furnace whilst repairs occurred on the TSL and maintain production.

“Nyrstar is working with the EPA on the requirements for a restart to occur.”

– with AAP


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