Mill enhancements slow Red Dog output
Installed upgrades expected to increase throughput at mine
Last updated 3/13/2020 at 4:20am
Teck Resources Ltd. Feb. 12 reported that the Red Dog Mine produced 552,400 metric tons (1.22 billion pounds) of zinc during 2019, down about 5% from the 583,200 metric tons (1.29 billion lb) of the galvanizing metal produced in 2018.
The Northwest Alaska operation also produced 102,800 metric tons (226.6 million lb) of lead last year, which is a more than 4% increase over the 98,400 (217 million lb) produced the previous year.
During the fourth quarter, Red Dog produced 131,100 metric tons (289 million lb) of zinc, which is 18% lower than the 160,100 metric tons (353 million lb) produced during the same period a year ago.
Lead production was also down slightly during the fourth quarter. During the final quarter of 2019, Red Dog produced 26,000 metric tons (57.3 million lb) of lead, a 2% drop from the 26,600 metric tons (58.6 million lb) produced at the mine during the same period of 2018.
Teck attributes the drop in metals production during the fourth quarter primarily to lower mill throughput resulting from planned shutdowns related to work to increase the installed power of the SAG (semi-autogenous grinding) mill motors as part of the ongoing Value Improvement Project 2 (VIP2) mill enhancement project.
Teck said a US$110 million mill upgrade project the company began at Red Dog late in 2017 is progressing as planned and commissioning is underway during this quarter. Due to this commissioning, coupled with lower ore grades, the company is expecting lower metals production at the Northwest Alaska mine during the first three months of this year.
The mill upgrade, slated to start up early in 2020, is expected to increase average mill throughput by about 15% over the remaining mine life at Red Dog.
While 2020 production is expected to start off slow, Teck forecasts that Red Dog will produce 500,000 to 535,000 metric tons (1.1 billion to 1.18 billion lb) of zinc and 95,000 to 100,000 metric tons (209 million to 220 million lb) of lead this year.
During the following three years, 2021 to 2023, the British Columbia-based miner expects the Northwest Alaska operation to produce 500,000 to 540,000 metric tons (1.1 billion to 1.19 million lb) of zinc and 80,000 to 100,000 (176 million to 198 million lb) metric tons of lead annually.
In addition to the mill upgrades, Teck is implementing an increased number of tailings and water-related projects in 2020 to manage increased precipitation and water levels at Red Dog. The company said the frequency of extreme weather events has been increasing in the Northwest Arctic region of Alaska where the mine is located and its water management projects are aimed at ensuring the company can avoid any potential constraints on production due to water-related issues in the future.
Based on current reserves, the Red Dog Mine is expected to continue churning out zinc and lead until 2031.