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Port Pirie smelter's future secured: govt

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ADELAIDE, Dec 3 AAP

December 03 2012, 3:56PM

Lead emissions will be substantially reduced and more than 2500 jobs secured under new plans for the Port Pirie smelter in South Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill says.

The commonwealth and SA governments have reached what Mr Weatherill says is an historic in-principle agreement with Nyrstar to transform its smelter and secure the long-term future of Port Pirie.

The agreement supports the transformation of Port Pirie through the construction of a $350 million advanced poly-metallic processing and recovery facility, the premier said on Monday.

As well as providing long-term security for the Nyrstar workers, the transformation would mean a substantial reduction in lead emissions.

Under the agreement, Nyrstar will undertake a feasibility study to transform the 120-year-old smelter into a cleaner metal processing and recovery centre.

The company will contribute $100 million and a further $100 million will be funded by the forward sale of some of the incremental metal units to be produced at Port Pirie as a consequence of the transformation, Mr Weatherill said.

A structured equity instrument will facilitate third-party investment of $150 million, with the commonwealth providing contingent support through a guarantee.

Mr Weatherill said the state government would also support the investment in relation to its environmental, health and safety liabilities.

In parallel with the smelter upgrade, a new Targeted Lead Abatement Program will be developed, aimed at significantly reducing lead contamination levels by "re-scoping" the existing community lead reduction program.

"The state government is contributing $5m to begin the immediate clean-up of environmental issues, mainly the lead dust that is emitted from the current smelter," Mr Weatherill said.

Nyrstar will contribute $3m per year for up to 10 years to implement the program, aimed at achieving better health and environmental outcomes and lower blood-lead levels for families and children.