Glencore reviews lead operations at Italian plant due to high power prices

Portovesme is the only Italian zinc and lead producer. (Image from: Portovesme’s website.)

Commodity group Glencore is reviewing the sustainability of lead operations at its Portovesme plant in Italy due to high power prices, an industry source with knowledge of the situation said on Thursday.

The company is delaying maintenance operations that were planned in coming months due to the review, the source added.

Surging power prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially in Europe, have forced shutdowns and suspension of many smelters, mostly energy-intensive aluminum and zinc.

Glencore put zinc sulphide operations at the Portovesme plant on care and maintenance in November 2021, but continued production of zinc recycling and lead.

The zinc recycling activities, where waste from steel mills is processed, is not under threat because it does not have high power requirements, the source added.

Glencore is looking at other possible uses of the lead plant, including using it for recycling batteries from electric vehicles, the source said.

This year the lead operations generated income from customers tied to annual contracts, but that is uncertain for next year, the source said.

The Italian government has been seeking to shield companies from surging energy prices, but the source said so far that was not enough to make the lead operations sustainable.

In the first half of the year, Glencore produced 159,000 tonnes of lead at three operations including Portovesme, according to its latest production report, which does not provide the output for each location.

(By Eric Onstad; Editing by Jason Neely)

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