Boliden will invest about $52 million to boost production from its Odda zinc smelter in Norway.

Boliden will invest about $52 million to boost production from its Odda zinc smelter in Norway.

Boliden will invest about $52 million to boost production from its Odda zinc smelter in Norway.

On November 10, Boliden announced plans to expand zinc production at its smelter in Odda, Norway, and a change of business strategy from tolling to purchasing nickel concentrates for processing at its Harjavalta, Finland, copper-nickel smelter.

At Odda, Boliden is investing 350 million Norwegian krone (about $52 million) to increase production of zinc metal from 170,000 to 200,000 metric tons per year (mt/y). The plant is expected to achieve the new capacity in the latter half of 2017.

About 80% of the zinc concentrates processed at Odda come from Boliden mines in Sweden and Ireland, the rest from mines in Canada and Peru. About 93% of the zinc metal produced is exported to steel mills in Europe, Scandinavia and Britain for use in producing galvanized steel.

At Harjavalta, Boliden is launching an independent nickel smelting business, buying nickel concentrates from external suppliers and selling nickel matte to nickel refineries. For several years, the Harjavalta plant has been tolling nickel concentrates owned by external parties for a fee. In 2013, Harjavalta processed approximately 250,000 mt of nickel concentrates into nickel matte, containing about 25,000 mt of nickel, for further treatment at external nickel refineries.

Under the new business plan, Boliden expects production to remain at 25,000 mt/y of nickel in matte. Boliden will buy concentrates from a variety of mines and sell the nickel matte to nickel refineries.

At Garpenberg, Boliden recently completed an expansion of mine production from 1.4 million to 2.5 million mt/y. The expansion program started in 2011 and included construction of a new concentrator, new shafts and underground facilities, and infrastructure upgrades. Capital investment totaled 3.9 billion Swedish kronor (about $560 million).

The Garpenberg mine produces complex ores containing zinc, lead, silver, copper and gold. The concentrator produces zinc, lead and copper concentrates. The zinc and lead concentrates are transported by truck to Gävle port for onward transport by ship, mainly to Boliden smelters in Rönnskär, Sweden; Kokkola, Finland; and Odda, Norway. The copper concentrate is trucked to a rail loading station for onward rail transport to the Rönnskär smelter.

Underground, automated and remotely controlled loading and haulage at Garpenberg are now based on Sandvik’s “AutoMine” system. Ventilation in the mine is also automated and runs on an on-demand basis, saving on energy needed to run the fans and provide heating. Water consumption/mt of ore produced has been reduced through more efficient management and updated equipment. Advanced nitrogen and water purification systems will also help ensure that there is no increase in the mine’s environmental impact.