Red Dog zinc output not slowed by COVID
Last year's winter storm put larger dent in mine production North of 60 Mining News – April 24, 2020
Last updated 9/26/2020 at 12:56pm
Teck Resources Ltd. April 20 reported increased zinc and lead production at Red Dog, despite the adjustments and precautions taken to protect the health of the workforce and residents in nearby Northwest Alaska communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Red Dog produced 128,400 metric tons (283.1 million pounds of zinc during the first quarter of this year, which is 17% higher than the first three months of 2019. Likewise, the first quarter zinc production during the first quarter of 2020 was 23,300 metric tons (51.4 million lb), which is 23% higher than the same period last year.
The higher production was primarily due to substantially higher mill throughput, which offset lower grades and recoveries.
This increased throughput is not as much about improved mill performance as weather. Last year, extreme winter weather forced a closure of the Delong Mountain Transportation System road that connects the Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska to the concentrate storage facility at the port for an extended period during January and February. As a result, the concentrator at Red Dog was idled for 20 days due to limited concentrate storage capacity at the mine site.
First quarter operating costs at Red Dog were US$72 million, which is 11% higher than a year ago, primarily due to higher mill throughput and material movement as well as higher administration costs. Unit operating costs, however, were lower than the same period last year.
At least some of the increased administrative and other costs are likely due to measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These protocols include pre-flight virus screenings for all personnel travelling to Red Dog; bans on travel from the mine to communities in the NANA region of northwest Alaska where the operation is located; extended work rotations; and 14-day isolation for all workers coming from outside Alaska before being allowed at the mine.
"We continue to respond and take action on the challenges presented by COVID-19 to protect the safety and health of our employees, contractors and the communities in which we operate," Teck Resources penned in its quarterly report. "At Red Dog, we have implemented significant travel restrictions and modified schedules due to the fly-in, fly-out nature of the operation."
Thanks in part to these measures and the efforts and diligence of the people working at the mine, Teck said it continues to maintain normal production levels at Red Dog.