‘Care and Maintenance’ could cost over €50m

The Care and Maintenance of Tara Mines that got underway last July after the shock decision by Boliden to mothball the mine is costing up to €13m per quarter.

Effectively, a skeleton crew of miners, electricians, plumbers and fitters oversee systems that will prevent the mine from flooding and keep the mine operational pending a full return to work and productivity.

According to a source close to the management team, the cost of care and maintenance is estimated at €13m a quarter "at a time when the mine is not producing anything".

If Europe's largest zinc mine stays in its zombie state for 12 months it could see costs reach over €50m without a single piece of ore deposit being brought to the surface.

"Taking on this cost demonstrates how serious the guys are about getting the mine open again, because they believe there is a bright future there. But reopening has to be on a sustainable basis, the deterioration in the market has had an enormous impact on the business.

"In order to reopen there needs to be reasonable agreement that will better enable the operation to withstand market shocks."

Preliminary results show that Tara Mines made a €65m loss in 2023.

The company’s 2023 financial results stated Tara Mines generated revenue of €98m, down from €253m in 2022 — a drop of 61 per cent. The company incurred a pre-tax loss of €67.5m in 2023 compared to a pre-tax profit of €24.4m in 2022.

The company, which is owned by Swedish mining company Boliden, said the average price of zinc last year stood at $2,648 (€2,449) per tonne, which is 24 per cent lower compared to 2022. The average price for lead for the financial year 2023 was US$2,136 (€1,975) per tonne, one per cent lower than the average in 2022.

As a result of the closure, the mine extracted and milled 1.09 million tonnes of ore in 2023 — a 48 per cent reduction compared to 2022.

According to the company, the decision was made to “safeguard” the long-term future of the group and in “response to significant and unsustainable financial losses that the business experienced during the first half of the financial year”.

“The directors believe that based on the forecast outlook, notwithstanding the cost of care and maintenance, the financial losses would have been significantly higher for the full year 2023 had the operation continued to run,” the company said.