Bolivian President Evo Morales was present at the official opening ceremony for the new Ausmelt furnace operated by Empresa Metalúrgica Vinto (EMV) last Thursday, 5 February.
The Ausmelt furnace, delayed by technical problems since last year, will enable the smelter to produce 15,000 tpy of refined tin, up from 12,000 tpy, the President said at the ceremony in Oruro. “There’s no turning back until we achieve our goal of 15,000 fine metric tons of tin exports. That will make us the world’s fifth largest smelter,” Vinto CEO Ramiro Villavicencio said at the ceremony, according to state news agency ABI. “We have proved to be a competitive company not just at a national level, but also internationally.”
ABI recently reported that the smelter produced 11,806 tonnes of refined tin in 2014, the highest level in 15 years.
ITRI View: The timing of the opening ceremony is politically-driven, coming seven years since the nationalisation of the plant, previously controlled by Glencore subsidiary Sinchi Wayra. While the capacity of the smelter has undoubtedly been increased substantially, a corresponding increase in Bolivia’s mine production is still needed to allow it to operate anywhere near 15,000 tpy and this could take several years.