SA Government must get immediate assurance that Nyrstar’s taxpayer funded $290 million loan is secure: SA-BEST

14 February 2019

The State Government must do all in its powers to ensure the near-$300 million taxpayer-funded loan to Nyrstar – the owners of the Port Pirie lead smelter – is secured as a matter of urgency.

SA-BEST MLCs Connie Bonaros and Frank Pangallo requested the Treasurer, Rob Lucas, initiate urgent emergency talks with Nyrstar’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer immediately.

Nyrstar has had its credit rating cut by Moody’s - one of the world’s leading ratings agencies – which reported the company faces a “very high probability of default”, it has been reported.

This puts at risk a $290 million debt which has been guaranteed by South Australian taxpayers.

“We implore the Treasurer to personally get on the phone – not leave it to bureaucrats in his office - and call the Nyrstar Chairman and/or Chief Executive Officer as a matter of urgency,” Connie said.

“Nearly $300 million in taxpayers’ money is at risk – something this state can ill afford,” she said.

“Further, it is critical the people of Port Pirie – many of whom are either directly or indirectly employed by the smelter – are told what’s going on.

“Their futures - and that of the entire city - depend on it.

“It is most concerning that the Treasurer has only revealed today that a $20 million payment promised by the company earlier this year is still yet to be paid – after the company has missed deadlines in May and November last year.

“As a matter of urgency, the State Government must get an update from Nyrstar on the health of its business and seek assurances that the $290 million loan it gave the company is secure.”

The former State Labor Government agreed to underwrite funds borrowed by the company to undertake a $560 million redevelopment of its Port Pirie operations to help secure its long term future in the region.

But the company’s global operations have continued to struggle – putting additional pressure on the Port Pirie smelter.

Frank said: “The decision by Moody’s to cut Nyrstar’s credit rating paints a bleak picture for the future of the Port Pirie smelter and the people it employs in the region.

“Like we have seen with the Whyalla steelworks, businesses can come back from the brink of death – and we remain hopeful this is the case with the smelter,” he said.

“We implore The Treasurer to take the lead on this matter.

“Parliament rises tonight for a week – enough time for him to get on a plane to Nyrstar’s corporate headquarters in Switzerland.”

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