Tara Mines prof­its soar to €96m on hike in zinc and lead prices

Irish Independent - Business Week - - FRONT PAGE - John Mul­li­gan

A SURGE in zinc and lead prices last year saw prof­its gen­er­ated by the Boli­den-owned Tara Mines in Na­van more than dou­ble to €96m in 2017.

The lead and zinc mine in Co Meath is one of the largest in the world and em­ploys more than 600 peo­ple.

The Swedish owner has pre­vi­ously out­lined plans to ex­tract ore from the mine with its Tara Deep project, which will make it one of the world’s deep­est.

Ac­counts just filed for the Ir­ish op­er­a­tion show that turnover rose al­most 27pc to €276m last year. That was de­spite the vol­ume of ore pro­duced from the mine fall­ing to 2.3 mil­lion tonnes last year from 2.6 mil­lion tonnes in 2016.

Boli­den noted that dur­ing 2017 av­er­age zinc prices climbed 51pc to $3,166 per tonne. The av­er­age price of lead in­creased by a third, to $2,383 per tonne.

“While the out­look for the mine’s fu­ture re­mains pos­i­tive, cur­rent global and eco­nomic con­di­tions re­quire the group to re­main fo­cused on pro­duc­tiv­ity im­prove­ments and con­trol of its cost base,” the di­rec­tors of the com­pany noted.

The per­for­mance since last year may have been tem­pered some­what dur­ing 2018, how­ever.

The London Metal Ex­change was yes­ter­day quot­ing a spot price of $2,505 per tonne of zinc and $1,905 for lead – both sig­nif­i­cantly lower than the av­er­age prices achieved dur­ing 2017.

Boli­den re­cently re­ported that dur­ing its third quar­ter, op­er­at­ing profit de­creased by 308m Swedish kro­nor (€30m) to 2.02bn Swedish kro­nor (€197m) as a re­sult of lower metal prices and re­duced

Tara Deep:

The Na­van op­er­a­tion is one of the world’s largest zinc and lead mines vol­umes at Tara and an­other mine it op­er­ates.

“The lower prices had both a di­rect neg­a­tive ef­fect on the profit, and a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the profit as a re­sult of the de­fin­i­tive pric­ing of pre­vi­ous de­liv­er­ies,” it noted.

Boli­den added that pro­duc­tion at Tara dur­ing its third quar­ter was hit by planned main­te­nance and lower zinc and lead grades. The Tara Deep project at the Na­van mine aims to pro­long its life as Boli­den hunts for new lead and zinc ore.

The plan en­vis­ages a more than €40m in­vest­ment that will un­lock the ore at depths of up to 1.9km, which will make the mine one of the deep­est in the world.

Tara Mines opened in 1977 and the new re­serves could ex­tend its life span by as much as an­other 20 years.

In its an­nual report ear­lier this year, Boli­den noted that it has al­ready been drilling from the sur­face to­wards Tara Deep.

It has also in­creased the in­ferred min­eral re­source at the new site to 13m tonnes from 10m tonnes.

“A very com­pre­hen­sive pro­gramme of im­prove­ments to the ge­o­log­i­cal mod­els of the ore and the de­sign of the min­ing rooms has been car­ried out at the mine dur­ing the year,” it noted.

“Over­all, this work has re­sulted in Tara’s min­eral re­serve now be­ing larger than for many years, but the ton­nage added to the mine’s re­serves is pri­mar­ily rel­a­tively low grade ton­nage, and the av­er­age grades have, there­fore, fallen.”

Boli­den’s min­ing and smelt­ing ac­tiv­i­ties are fo­cused on Scan­di­navia as well as Ire­land.

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