CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE: Canada’s newest copper smelter to close

The Kidd Creek copper smelter in Timmins, ON, is to close permanently on May 1, 2010, Xstrata Copper announced...




The Kidd Creek copper smelter in Timmins, ON, is to close permanently on May 1, 2010, Xstrata Copper announced earlier this week. On the same date, the Kidd Creek zinc refinery will also cease operations permanently. The Kidd Creek mine and concentrator will continue to operate, but there will be about 700 fewer smelter and refinery jobs in Timmins.


Xstrata said the closures are part of restructuring its Canadian metallurgical operations. It blamed global smelting overcapacity, record low treatment and refining charges, rising operating and capital costs, and lower demand for sulphuric acid for the decision. The situation has been exacerbated by the strength of the Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. greenback, said the company. The shutdown cost of the two metallurgical plants and asset impairment charges will cost Xstrata approximately US$375 million.


The remaining Kidd Creek assets, the mine and concentrator, will be integrated with the facilities of the Horne copper smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, QC, and the CCR refinery in Montreal.


Ironically, the closure of Canada's oldest copper smelter will also take place by mid-2010. The 80-year-old smelter in Flin Flon, MB, is to close by July 1, 2010. HudBay Minerals announced its decision because the smelter is in need of a total technological overhaul and because of a shortage of concentrate feed.


The closure of the old Flin Flon smelter is understandable because the industry knew that it was at the end of its technological life, despite numerous modernizations over the years.


The Kidd copper smelter is Canada's newest, less than 30 years old. I was there and wrote a definitive story when it was commissioned. It boasted some truly remarkable automation advances. The closure of the Kidd smelter, one that should have operated at relatively low costs, is a blow – to the people of Timmins and to Canada's position as a world-class copper producer.


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