THE Port Pirie metal smelter requires a planned $350 million upgrade if it is to meet better environmental standards. Without the upgrade it would probably have to close.
As The Adelaide Advertiser reports, these findings come the Nyrstar Port Pirie Smelter Public Environmental Report which has been released for public comment.
According to the report, if the smelter were to close there would be significant disruption to the community in the form of job losses, cuts to private investment, closure of schools and reduced government revenues.
The site of the smelter site has now been an industrial site for 124 years and the report does not foresee that it would cause any further harm to water, marine, flora or fauna.
However, it says, "Reduction of blood lead levels (in the Port Pirie population) has plateaued and a step change in ongoing emissions from the smelter is required to facilitate the next phase of emission and blood lead level reductions.
"The primary objective of the Port Pirie smelter transformation is to facilitate that step change by upgrading the smelter's primary lead production facilities."
Belgian-based Nyrstar and the State and Federal Governments have agreed to a $350 million deal for the upgrade, but the company has yet to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the upgrade.
The report is now open for public comment for six weeks until September 18.
Meanwhile, the Australian reports that thousands of workers could lose their jobs if the smelter doesn’t become more profitable.
The Australian has obtained an internal memo to staff of the Port Pirie smelter which says that the smelter "cannot continue to run unprofitably for the next three years."
The Port Pirie smelter also supports the operation of the Hobart zinc facility. These two plants employ a total of 1400 workers, while an additional 4200 people have jobs would be indirectly affected by any closure of the plants.
The notice from Nyrstar general manager Glenn Poynter says, "Our current performance questions our capability to run the site and deliver a profit.
"The site's current levels of performance are well below what is acceptable and what the site is capable of, and even with an old plant, we need to do much better."