Social Relevance- The Port Pirie Smelter
Port Pirie is a town located between the Gulf of Spencer and the Flinders’ Ranges of South Australia. In 1889 a large lead smelter was built, and by 1934 it had become one of the biggest in the world. The smelter, now owned by Nyrstar, is linked to mines and other metal processer all over the world. (Port Pirie 2014) Recently, the smelter has been the subject of many health complaints and due to this Nyrastar has threatened to close the smelter down unless it receives government supports to upgrade the plant to be able to meet the EPA regulations.
The Port Pirie smelter has a leading position in the market of lead and zinc refining, as well as other precious metals. The owner of the smelter Nyrstar has sites all over the world and sells their products to many counties, e.g. China, America and place throughout Europe. A contributing factor to this is how quickly and easily they can distribute their products all over the world. The smelter is only a few kilometres away from many forms for transportation. Port Pirie is the second largest port in South Australia, along with this, the Port Pirie Railway and National Highway One help aid the smelter with transportation. The Port Augusta Power station helps supply energy to the smelter, which isn’t too far away either and the most common job for residents of Port Pirie are in Non-Ferrous metal manufacturing. (Metals Processing, 2014)
The process of refining zinc has two main steps: roasting and electrolysis. Both of these processes use a lot of energy. The roasting stage involves heating the furnace chamber up to temperatures between 700 oC and 1000oC Roasting is a way of oxidizing zinc sulphide and getting impure zinc oxide also known as "Z...
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...rms a thin, strong, water-resistant, layer of zinc carbonate, which protects the metal from further corrosion. (Galvanization 2014)
Nyrstar has threatened to close the smelter unless in receives government funding. Whether they should there are two important perspectives you must take into consideration: the public health, the economic. The health of the surrounding residents is protected by the EPA regulations that limit the SO2 and lead emissions from the smelter1. The plant underpins the economy of Port Pirie and significantly contributes to the economy of South Australia. Without the smelter the future of town would be in question, as in addition to the direct job loses, many small businesses and shops would close. This has a huge social cost to the State. The magnitude of social impact of the plant closing indicates that some government support is needed.