Glencore is reviewing its copper operations in north Queensland. High fixed operating costs and intense global competition is hurting the business, reported local media quoting the company’s spokesperson.
The smelter is scheduled to be re-bricked in 2022 and given the business challenges faced by the operations, the company is reconsidering its viability. The Mount Isa smelter was re-bricked in 2018 with an investment of $30mn for which the smelter was shut for two months in March and April.
Glencore’s Queensland operation is well-integrated from mining and processing to exports with Mount Isa Mines complex, Ernest Henry Mining (Cloncurry), and a copper refinery in Townsville. The refinery produces premium copper cathodes and exports it from the Port of Townsville.
Mount Isa Mines’ copper operations consist of underground copper mines, copper concentrator and copper smelter. The company’s Queensland unit produced 151,100mt of copper cathodes and concentrates in 2019, which including Ernest Henry Mining and Townville operations and third-party feed. Townsville refinery or Copper Refineries Limited (CRL) has an installed capacity to produce 300,000mt of 99.995pc pure copper cathode per year.
The company’s zinc operations at Mount Isa produced 326,373mt zinc concentrates, 157,984mt lead concentrates and 5,518,256oz of silver in 2019. The unit consists of George Fisher underground mine, Lady Loretta underground mine, zinc-lead concentrator and lead smelter.
In H1 2020, Glencore’s total copper production at Mount Isa, Ernest Henry, Townsville including third party feed was 103,000mt, up 5pc from H1 2019, but output dipped in Q2 by 17pc to 49,800mt. The company’s own sourced copper production in Australia was 87,200mt similar to H1 2019.