Port Pirie (Nyrstar)
The Port Pirie lead and multi-metal smelter has been in operation for more than 130 years.
Nyrstar holds a licence under the Environment Protection Act 1993 (the Act) for several activities of environmental significance.
2023 licence renewal
On 30 June 2023 the EPA issued Nyrstar with a new 5-year licence. The licence has been developed after extensive review and assessment by the EPA to further strengthen licence conditions.
This longer-term licence reflects Nyrstar’s current performance, enables improved environmental outcomes, and allows Nyrstar to achieve its long-term commitment and investment in lead emission reduction.
See 'community updates' for further information.
Monitoring lead in air (LiA)
The EPA undertakes verification monitoring at 4 locations in Port Pirie: Ellen Street, Pirie West Primary School, Oliver Street and Frank Green Park.
This monitoring data is not used to assess Nyrstar’s compliance against the LiA limits however, it informs the EPA on the overall air quality in Port Pirie, on a long-term basis.
The EPA also regularly reviews airborne monitoring results conducted by Nyrstar. This monitoring is important in controlling operations on site and is used to assess Nyrstar's compliance against its licence conditions.
2023 licence renewal − progressive LiA limit and target reductions
Annual average LiA limits are only applied at Nyrstar's Oliver Street and Pirie West Primary School monitoring stations and will reduce in a stepwise manner during each year of the licence down to a level of 0.32µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre) of air in December 2027, measured as total suspended particulates (TSP):
December 2023 0.38 µ/m3 TSP lead
December 2024 0.36 µ/m3 TSP lead
December 2025 0.34 µ/m3 TSP lead
December 2026 0.32 µ/m3 TSP lead
December 2027 0.32 µ/m3 TSP lead
In addition, LiA targets (based on 3-month and 12-month rolling averages) have also been tightened and will reduce over the 5-year licence period, with an exception to this at Ellen Street. The challenges faced by Nyrstar at this monitoring location have been recognised in the updated licence, with no changes being made to the 12-month average targets at the Ellen Street location, until December 2025.
Exceeding LiA limits would result in a regulatory response from the EPA. However, LiA target exceedances are intended as an opportunity for Nyrstar to reflect on, and improve operations, and demonstrate to the EPA that it has implemented appropriate responses.
The 12-month average goals, which if not met, provide the EPA with the opportunity to require a review and/or amendment of the Environment Improvement Program (EIP) for the site. The licence references June 2028 as the timeframe within which Nyrstar should demonstrate that the 12-month average goal of 0.25 µg/m³ TSP lead will be achieved. The LiA goal is where the EPA expects Nyrstar to be in the longer term.
Monitoring results – lead and sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Nyrstar recently complied with its annual average TSP LiA limit of 0.4 µg/m3 at both the Pirie West and Oliver Street monitoring stations.
However, the 12-month average TSP LiA target at the Ellen Street monitoring station which is the closest monitoring location to the smelter operations was exceeded in the 12-month period prior to 30 June 2023. The EPA acknowledges the performance at Ellen Street as well as the contributing factors to the exceedance and actions taken or to be taken. The EPA continues to focus on ensuring continuous environmental improvement at the Port Pirie Smelter.
Despite achieving a significant reduction in sulfur dioxide (S02) emissions in recent years, the EPA is aware that Nyrstar has been experiencing intermittent emission events associated with operation of its Acid Plant. Under its EPA licence, Nyrstar must do everything reasonable and practicable to control SO2 emissions and impacts to the residents of Port Pirie.
The EPA is working with Nyrstar to ensure this situation is addressed and timely information is provided to the community on the issue moving forward. The licence is now aligned with the updated National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure. For real-time emissions data, please visit the Nyrstar website.
EPA data are not used to assess Nyrstar’s compliance against the licence limit(s).
How is LiA measured and interpreted
The LiA concentrations are measured using high volume air samplers according to the Australian Standard method for total suspended particles which are particles of size less than 50 µm (millionths of a metre) and it includes a mixture of large and fine particles.
This instrument is used to collect total suspended particle samples by drawing a large known volume of air through a pre-weighed filter for 24 hours. After sampling, the filter is re-weighed and the difference in filter weight is the collected particulate matter mass. Dividing the mass by the volume of air sampled gives the concentration of TSP. The particulate matter retained on the filter is analysed to determine the concentration of lead by an analytical laboratory.
The Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016 provides a legislative basis for regulating and managing air quality in SA, including criteria for developing effective conditions to assist businesses and industries to improve their performance in minimising risk from air emissions through a system of licensing. For Nyrstar’s licence, the EPA has also considered international best practices and latest health advice in deriving new lead in air limits and targets.
How to interpret LiA monitoring data from Port Pirie
|1-day-in-6 sampling (EPA)||Daily sampling (Nyrstar)|
|What is it?||Lead content analysed in the 24-hour averaged TSP (total suspended particles) sample collected every 6th day||Lead content analysed in the 24-hour averaged TSP sample collected every day|
|How to calculate annual average?||Lead concentration from limited samples (approximately total 60 in 1 year) are averaged to calculate annual average||Lead concentration from daily samples (365 samples in 1 year) are averaged to calculate annual average|
|How these data are presented?||Rolling annual average of lead in air in µg/m3 on a time series graph||Rolling annual average of lead in air in µg/m3 on a time series graph|
|What does it say about lead in air levels?||Informs long-term trends and assist in understanding impact on public health||Provides the basis for compliance against licence limit|
|Does this type of data trigger any regulatory response?||No. However it raises concerns if the levels are in excess of normal expected fluctuations and background levels.||Yes, if the annual average levels are above lead in air limits. Triggers regulatory response if the levels are above the limit.|
Nyrstar monitoring portal
Community updates and reports
- Licence renewal update 6, 30 June 2023
- Licence renewal update 5, 30 June 2022
- Licence renewal update 4, 30 May 2022
- Site contamination audit statement, May 2022
- Licence renewal update 3, 30 June 2021
- Environment Improvement Program, 29 December 2020
- Licence renewal update 2, 30 June 2020
- Licence renewal update 1, 3 June 2020
- Previous licence, July 2018–June 2020
- Interim licence renewal, May 2018
For further information on EPA-related enquiries, please contact the EPA on (08) 8204 2176 or email.
For further information on health-related queries, please contact SA Health on (08) 8226 7100.
For further information, please visit Nyrstar’s designated webpage.