Recent improvements boost productivity at Red Dog mine

Changes allow mine to increase profits by $34 million, manager says

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The Red Dog zinc and lead mine near Kotzebue reports that improved operations last year allowed it to produce record amounts of metals and increase profits by $34 million.

Manager John Egan told The Anchorage Daily News that investing $6 million in staff and consultants paid off in productivity.

The Red Dog is the largest mine in Alaska.

The improvements were mostly simple solutions to make things run more smoothly: speedier removal of snow and ice that clog ore feeders, replacing parts before they break, and ordering products in bulk.

The project is hundreds of little fixes rather than "one silver bullet," Egan said.

The project kicked off in September 2008 and mine productivity hit records in January 2009, April, October and December.

The mine shipped 1.02 million metric tons of zinc concentrate last year, compared with 920,000 tons of zinc concentrate in the prior year.

Red Dog's operating profit last year was $381 million, also up significantly from a year earlier, according to Teck Resources, a Vancouver, British Columbia, company that owns the mine. The operating profit doesn't include deductions made for taxes and certain other expenses.

Last year, Teck said it distributed $144 million to the state and NANA Regional Corp., the Kotzebue Native corporation that owns the land that the mine sits on. That's a $32 million increase from the prior year. NANA shares its royalties with other Native corporations.

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