Tsumeb – Dundee Precious Metals plans to shut down its arsenic plant in Tsumeb, saying the plant has not been profitable even though it has come close to breaking even. About 50 employees at the plant are scheduled to be re-assigned to other roles within the company when the plant closes down at the end of this year.
Dundee says the closure of the arsenic plant would in no way have any effect on the operations of the acid plant. The latter was inaugurated early this year and was built largely to address concerns of low environment standards at the plant by capturing arsenic emissions and using them to produce sulphuric acid, which is sold to mines in Namibia and around the world.
Dundee’s arsenic plant had supplied industrial input products for use in wood preservation, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides to companies in Malaysia and South Africa.
However, Dundee’s vice-president and managing director Zebra Kasete said the arsenic production represented a small part of the company’s business and was producing low returns.
“Much money was invested in the arsenic plant, but it was not performing well, especially for the past two years. At least this year it was almost on a breakeven point,” Kasete told the media in Tsumeb on Monday.
“We want our complete focus to be on optimizing and expanding our core smelter operations,” stressed Kasete.
“We have contractual obligations which need to be honoured before a final decision can be carried out, especially with our customers. The plant would open to meet its contractual obligations to provide arsenic to the end of 2016 after which the closure plan will be implemented,” he said.
“The approximately 50 employees will be redeployed to other parts of the operation,” Kasete said, adding that employees and other affected parties were informed of the decision last week.
Another reason is that the site where the arsenic plant is situated cannot be expanded to enhance its production. Arsenic is a naturally occurring metal found in rocks and soil.
Meanwhile, Kasete says the sulphuric acid plant has been successful in capturing sulphuric acid emissions. The acid plant sells sulphuric acid to Rössing and other mines in the country.
“The new acid plant captures up to 95 percent of the SO2 emissions that plagued Tsumeb since the smelter was established over 50 years ago. It has made a notable contribution to the improvement of the air quality in Tsumeb,” Kasete said.
Kasete further said the 20 percent of arsenic that was being produced from the plant will now be stored at an engineered hazardous waste facility within the smelting site.
Kasete also informed the media that Dundee has commenced studies to expand the smelter operations and is looking to alternative solutions to waste disposal when the current site has reached its full capacity.
“We are busy with environmental and technical assessments within the community, which will run until next year,” stressed Kasete, adding that the envisaged site can be within the vicinity of the smelter or anywhere in the country, provided it’s environmentally friendly and subject to regulatory approvals.