Nyrstar to cover lead material to reduce emissions in Port Pirie from dust

The State Government has announced a major upgrade of processing facilities at the Port Pirie smelter aimed at reducing airborne lead levels.

Key points:Lead levels in Port Pirie children have been increasing in recent yearsNyrstar will cover materials at its smelter to prevent emissions and dustThe state government is contributing funding to the project

The $23 million "product recycling facility" will be built by smelter operator Nyrstar with $7 million in funding from the South Australian government.

The average blood lead level in Port Pirie children has been rising over the last few years, despite work by Nyrstar to reduce lead emissions from its smelter, one of the world's largest.

The 6,850 square metre facility will be negatively pressured to contain fine dust particles.

"We want to contain that lead," Resources Minister Dan Van Holst Pellekaan said.

"We know that this significant improvement can reduce lead in air emissions by up to 25 per cent and that goes directly to a reduction in lead in children's blood. 

"Both the state government and the company want this project to happen as soon as possible." 

Premier Steven Marshall said the project would also create jobs in Port Pirie.

"This outstanding initiative will create 75 jobs at the peak of construction and sustain hundreds of jobs over the life of the project, delivering a significant economic boost for Port Pirie's economy," he said.

A ship beside a lead smelter on a river
Nyrstar's smelter processes lead as well as other metals.(ABC News: Haidarr Jones)

Covering material to prevent lead in air

The intermediate material used in the production process which will be contained in the building is currently kept outside.

A conveyor belt from the building to the furnace will also be covered.

"This project will materially change how we move material on site, reducing material movement by up to 60 per cent," Nyrstar vice president for Australian operations Dale Webb said. 

"The other element is actually storing material indoors under vacuum.

"That will significantly improve what we're already doing to control emissions."

A view of the Port Pirie smelter from Solly beach park across the water.
Nyrstar is the largest employer in Port Pirie.(ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)

Preliminary work is expected to start early next year with the project scheduled to be completed by 2024.

Last month, Mr Van Holst Pellekaan — whose electorate will include Port Pirie from the 2022 election — announced the state government's Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) would be extended until 2034.

Forty-three Housing SA properties where children under five live will undergo remediation works to reduce lead dust around homes in an attempt to reduce exposure.

Posted 12 Nov 202112 Nov 2021Fri 12 Nov 2021 at 7:10amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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