With zinc prices rising, Teck American Inc. plans to reopen the Pend Oreille Mine in northeast Washington by the end of the year.
About 80 people are already working at the underground mine near Metaline Falls, and the workforce should swell to about 240 by December, said David Godlewski, Teck’s vice president for environment and public affairs. The company’s intent is to have the mine back to full production by the fourth quarter, he said.
The Pend Oreille Mine closed in 2009, amid tumbling prices for zinc and lead, which the mine also produces. Industrial metals took a hit from the global recession. Zinc is used to rust-proof steel, and demand dropped with fewer orders for automobiles and steel construction supports.
Now, zinc prices are on the upswing, trading around 93 cents per pound.
Teck’s decision to reopen the Pend Oreille reflects both the recovering economy and planned closures of large zinc mines in Australia and Canada, Godlewski said.
“We see this as a perfect opportunity to restart the mine and tap into what we anticipate to be a strong market going forward,” he said.
During the shutdown, Teck workers continued to explore the Pend Oreille Mine’s mineral reserves. Based on what the company knows about the ore body, Godlewski said, the mine has a five-year operating life, with the potential to extend operations.
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