Boliden accused of poor taste for speculation of 'dire future' for mine

SIPTU representatives have accused Boliden Tara Mines of 'poor taste' for speculating on a dire future for the mine, when reporting nearly a half billion profit for the Boliden Group.

The union has said that remarks by the chief executive of Tara Mines owner, Boliden, are ‘unhelpful’ to ongoing talks between the company and unions aimed at returning the county Meath facility to full operation.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Regan, said warning that the mine will have to close permanently if it does not return to profitability are unhelpful to the hard work being undertaken by union representatives to agree with management a return to full operation for the mine.

“It is also in poor taste to speculate on a dire future for the mine when reporting a nearly €.5 billion profit for the Boliden Group. The profitability of this company has been boosted by the Tara Mines operation over many years but little loyalty is being shown to its staff, who are currently relying on the state's social welfare system for unemployment benefit.”

Preliminary results for Boliden for 2023 indicate Tara Mines made a loss before tax of €65million. Boliden Group CEO Mikael Staffas warned in a webcast last week that the future of the operation will be dependent on its ability to make a profit.

He also said losses at Tara would have been significantly greater had the mine not been placed into care and maintenance.

John Regan pointed out that the report does not give a full breakdown of the financial position of Tara Mines. "It indicates that the operating loss from maintaining Tara Mines in a ‘care and maintenance’ situation, rather than fully operational, is estimated at around €13 million per quarter. If the company entered into talks with the unions earlier on a possible rescue plan for Tara Mines, the claimed losses could have been lessened and ‘care and maintenance’ could have been avoided.”

SIPTU TEAC Division Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “Short term cost increases and a reduction in the price of zinc were the reasons provided by the company for the temporary cessation of operations last year. These conditions no longer apply.

“Forecasts, while always tentative, suggest that zinc prices will rise slowly over the next few years with some forecasters suggesting a rise of 10per cent by 2028 over last year’s level. Energy prices and the level of inflation have reduced significantly in the last six months and are projected to fall even further in 2024. Any remaining operational challenges to the reopening of the mine should be dealt with through collective input and agreement between the employer and the Tara Mines Group of Unions.”

More than 600 workers have experienced 213 days of layoff since the mine was placed in care and maintenance during 2023.

The Boliden Group published its full year results for 2023 last week indicating preliminary results show the Tara Mines entity made a loss before tax of €65million

Mr Staffas spoke of the ongoing negotiations around re-opening Tara, and remarked its future would be dependent on its ability to make a profit.

The costs of care and maintenance continues to run at €13million per quarter. These costs are being met by the Boliden Group.

The care and maintenance costs for quarter one will now be covered by €15million of proceeds from a business interruption insurance claim. This claim has recently been settled and relates to the 2021 Tara Deep flooding.

Discussions with the Group of Unions over the rescue plan proposals, which involve redundancies and lower production targets, remain ongoing.

General Manager Gunnar Nyström said; “Preliminary results for 2023 indicate that the Tara Mines entity incurred losses of €65million in 2023. This would have been substantially higher had we not temporarily suspended operations and entered care and maintenance in July 2023. External market conditions remain extremely challenging, and the current price of zinc is of major concern. This demonstrates the importance of reaching an agreement with the Group of Unions on the rescue plan proposals to enable the operation to re-open on a sustainable basis, with better protection against external market conditions. We remain in discussions with the Group of Unions and continue to work towards achieving an agreement.”