On April 7th, Acuity Commodities visited the Sun Metals zinc refinery located near Townsville, Queensland in Australia. The refinery, which commenced operations in 1996, is wholly owned by Korea Zinc. The facility treats zinc concentrates with around 50% sourced from the nearby Mount Isa region and the balance from locations such as Alaska, US, and South America. Each year, Sun Metals processes around 475,000t of zinc concentrates which are received by rail at the facility.
During the first phase of the zinc treatment process, the zinc sulphide concentrates are roasted to convert to zinc oxide material, which is further processed into finished products. During this roasting process, the sulphur content is removed through the creation of sulphur dioxide which is converted to sulphuric acid. Sun Metals produces around 420,000 t/yr of 98.5% grade sulphuric acid, of which around 70% is delivered by rail locally to Incitec Pivot (IPL) to support phosphate fertilizer production. Around 5% of the acid is consumed on site in a leaching process and the balance is delivered by trucks to local consumers to support mainly metals processes.
Sun Metals is considering expanding its transportation by truck because of issues that can at times constrain movement by rail. As an indication of this, there was an acid train derailment in late December 2015 along the rail line, which impacted the movement of acid from the Sun Metals refinery to IPL. Because of the backlog created, sulphuric acid was exported from the Port of Townsville to the Philippines.
In terms of its zinc products, around 20% is delivered to the local market by truck and the balance trucked to the Port of Townsville where it is exported to London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouses.