Ivernia Inc. announced in mid-January that, in light of weak LME lead prices, it is placing its Paroo Station lead mine in Western Australia on care and maintenance until further notice. “Despite record production and sales in 2014 and the progress we have made to reduce costs and improve efficiencies at the mine, the current LME lead price has dropped well below sustainable levels and cannot support profitable ongoing operations,” said Ivernia President and CEO Wayne Richardson.

The announcement pointed out that the LME lead price had dropped 23% since reaching a recent high of $2,269/mt on July 28, 2014. 

Ivernia has initiated discussions with its lenders, employees, customers, mining contractor, suppliers and other key stakeholders with regards to the change in operations. The company will re-evaluate the status of the mine as market conditions warrant. The company also is awaiting the outcomes from an independent technical report on its deposits to help it assess what lead price will be required to resume sustainable operations.

The Paroo Station mine remains in compliance with all operating permits and will be poised to return to full production once price conditions improve.

The mine’s revenue for the first nine months of 2014 totaled $111.2 million from the sale of 83,900 mt of concentrate containing 56,100 mt of lead metal, compared to revenue of $59.2 million for the first nine months of 2013 from the sale of 44,000 mt of concentrate containing 28,000 mt of lead metal. Net loss for the first nine months of 2014 was $4.5 million, compared to a net loss of $34.5 million for the first nine months of 2013.

The Paroo Station mine is located approximately 30 km west of the town of Wiluna and 750 km northeast of Perth. An all-weather paved airstrip 4 km south of Wiluna facilitates access for personnel via charter and other commercial flights from Perth.

The mine produces a unique lead carbonate concentrate. Mineralization consists of sediment-hosted zones of secondary lead carbonate (cerrusite) and sulphate (anglesite) in deposits that occur on subtle topographic highs and are fairly flat-lying.

Ore is mined from a series of pits by conventional surface mining methods and is processed on-site. After milling, material is subjected to a unique sulphidization process that coats lead carbonate particles with a molecular sulphide layer, thereby encouraging flotation and allowing the use of conventional flotation.

Dewatering to achieve 8% final moisture is accomplished via dual-stage concentrate thickening tanks followed by pressure filtering. Concentrate is gravity-fed from the pressure filter to a bagging area, where it is loaded into 2-mt bags for transport.