Xstrata Mt Isa to phase out copper smelting

Xstrata Mount Isa Mines will phase out copper smelting and refining operations in Townsville by the end of 2016.

The miner announced the move as part of its long term vision for its North Queensland operations.

Xstrata will also expand its existing mining operations and concentrate production, as well as continue lead smelting operations and the expansion of port facilities in Townsville.

Steve de Kruijff, Xstrata Copper NQ’s chief operating officer, said phasing out the copper smelting and refining operations in North Queensland and moving the focus to on the development of mining and copper concentrate was a response to changing global demand.

“Market conditions have been very challenging for copper smelting and refining operations due to over capacity in the global market, low treatment and refining charges and increasing operating costs.”

de Kruijff explained that copper smelting and refining operations have been under increasing pressure for a number of years and could not be sustained in the long term.

It remains focused on copper mining, and is investing $589 million to develop the Ernest Henry open cut pit into a long term underground mine as well as constructing a magnetite processing facility at Cloncurry.

It has also announced the acquisition of two of Exco Resources’ copper projects, the E1 and Monakaff tenements, which are located near the Ernest Henry mine.

He went on to reiterate the miner’s commitment to the region, stating that “our operational plan over the next five years will see significant investment in North Queensland to focus on exporting mineral concentrates (such as copper, lead and zinc), along with the development of infrastructure.”

The miner is currently investing $463 million to expand its lead zinc mining operations.

An additional $300 million is also set aside for the potential expansion of its George Fisher mine; to increase production by one million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes by 2013; and a mine life expansion project for the Black Star Deeps open pit.

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