With a slowing demand for refined metals and a market glut of unrefined ore, Teck Resources is shutting down a zinc mine near Metaline Falls, Wash.
The move comes five years after the company re-started Pend Oreille operations, located 85 kilometres south of Teck Trail, and resumed shipping zinc and lead concentrate to the smelter for processing.
“Pend Oreille is expected to exhaust its current reserves soon, and mining and concentrate production will be suspended on July 31,” Teck spokesperson Chad Pederson told the Trail Times.
“The mine will then be transitioned to care and maintenance.”
Looking at zinc, the refined metal market remains tight, while the concentrate market is in surplus, Pederson said.
“While Pend Oreille concentrate was shipped to Trail operations, alternative concentrates are available to support the plant,” he explained.
“We also receive a majority of concentrates from Teck’s Red Dog mine in northwest Alaska.”
Pend Oreille was previously operated by Teck in 2004. Unfavourable market conditions had the company shutting down the American resource back in 2009. When zinc production began trending upwards on a global scale five years later, the company revived operations.
The first shipment went across the Nelway border in December 2014, and began to subsequently bump up the rate of production by approximately 44,000 tonnes in zinc concentrate per year.
While the impact of additional ore from the U.S. mine to Trail operations was nominal, in 2014, Teck reported it added 230 jobs in Pend Oreille county and was projected to flow about $20 million of investment to the communities in that area.
While second quarter (Q2) results will not be released until Thursday, as far as the Trail plant, the company stated the slow production start of 2019 was expected to turnaround in Q2.
“Production of our principal products in the first quarter was lower than a year ago due to various issues,” Teck stated. “Including severe winter weather conditions that affected Red Dog and our steel-making coal operations and supply chain, anticipated lower ore grades at a few of our operations and maintenance issues at our Trail Operations.
“Treatment and refining charges have recently increased and will positively affect profits at Trail Operations in the second half of 2019.”
Due to unplanned upkeep in the oxygen plant, the company reported refined zinc production at the smelter was down six per cent in the first quarter and refined lead production was five per cent lower compared with the same period last year.
Refined silver production of 2.9 million ounces was 33 per cent less than a year ago due to the treatment of lead concentrates with lower silver content and a temporary build up in process inventory.