The company’s Townsville copper refinery is one of the world’s leading electrolytic copper refineries producing copper cathode from copper anode produced at the Mount Isa smelterand other smelters, such as Xstrata Copper's Altonorte facility in Chile. The refinery uses Xstrata’s ISA PROCESS technology.
In the last few years, Townsville has made important investments to convert its fuel source from liquid fuel to coal seam gas. This has improved efficiencies and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A refinery upgrade to increase capacity from 280,000 tonnes per annum to 300,000 tonnes per annum was completed in 2007.
The port operations export mineral concentrates, copper cathodes and lead bullion from Xstrata's North Queensland operations and fertiliser for third party customers. In addition to Xstrata product, the port operations also handle concentrates from mining operations in the NW Minerals Province of Queensland.
Brief History of the Operation
The copper refinery’s history began with the discovery of additional copper reserves in the 1950s by Mount Isa Mines in north west Queensland. It became apparent to the company that it would be advantageous to establish an electrolytic refinery to produce copper shapes suitable for fabrication and sale to domestic and international customers.
Townsville was selected as the best location because of its port facilities which provide direct transport to overseas customers by ship, as well as road and rail transport for the Australian market. The copper refinery became operational in July 1959 with an annual capacity of 40,000 tonnes. Over its 47 years of operation, the capacity has progressively expanded to its current capacity of 300,000 tonnes.
In the late 1970s, the ISA Process technology was developed at the refinery. This technology is now licensed to 66 refineries worldwide. Today more than 40% of the world’s copper production is achieved by companies using this “home grown” technology. In June 2003, the refinery came under new ownership when MIM Holdings Limited was acquired by Xstrata.