Suffering from operational issues in its mining and processing segments, Nyrstar has decided to restart its Middle Tennessee mining operations, which were put into care and maintenance in early December 2015. A small team has been in place overseeing the care and maintenance and the company said this group will now increase to facilitate mine development with ore production to commence during Q1 2017, and mill processing operations to commence in Q2 2017. Full capacity of 50,000 metric tons per year of zinc in concentrate is expected to be reached by November 2017.
Nyrstar is still trying to sell its mining assets. Middle Tennessee consists of three underground zinc mines, Gordonsville, Elmwood and Cumberland, and a processing plant located at the Gordonsville mine site. All three mines are tied to the company’s Clarksville smelter, which is located about 100 miles away.
Nyrstar has experienced a number of “extraordinary operational issues” recently, which have adversely impacted production. The Balen smelter in Belgium suffered a hydrogen fire in the electrolysis department and an electrical cabinet fire at one of its roasters. Hobart smelter in Tasmania suffered structural damage to the electrolysis department and experienced issues with stability in the leaching department. Record high temperatures impacted electrolysis efficiency at the Clarksville smelter. The combined impact has been a loss of zinc metal production of approximately 30,000 metric tons (mt). As a result, Nyrstar now expects it to be at the low end of the guidance of less than 1.1 million mt.
The company’s mining segment also experienced some recent production issues amounting to approximately 4,000 mt of lost zinc in concentrate production. The problems were primarily associated with the Langlois mine in northwest Québec, where ground control issues have temporarily restricted access to two high-grade Alimak stopes, leading to an approximate 60% reduction in zinc in concentrate production. Nyrstar decreased its 2016 full-year zinc in concentrate production from 130,000-160,000 mt to 90,000-110,000 mt.
Also, the Port Pirie lead refinery suffered from a storm-related electricity failure in the state of South Australia on September 28, which caused an outage of the entire plant. This mostly impacted the blast furnace, which was expected to be down for approximately six to 10 days for repairs.