Delivering Refractory Management Solutions to Enhance Client Profitability and Savings

Client’s Challenge

Nyrstar is an integrated mining and metals business, with a  market leading position in zinc and lead. Nyrstar’s smelter in Port Pirie, South Australia, is a significant contributor to the state’s economy through the lead, zinc, silver and gold it produces and exports.

In order to achieve optimal smelter performance necessary to meet critical production targets, Nyrstar required the support of a refractory management specialist with a proven track record in safety, environmental management and asset management.


Veolia’s Solution

Veolia has been working with Nyrstar to improve its refractory practices and introduce high performance refractory materials to enhance furnace campaign life and operational reliability.  

The partnership has helped reduce costs, increase profitability and set a benchmark within the refractories industry for performance through continuous improvement, smarter processes and innovative technologies.

To ensure that Nyrstar cost saving targets were met, Veolia developed the following initiatives:  


Quality improvement and asset management initiatives

  • Audited and documented all refractory assets on site to establish a baseline for future performance improvements; 
  • Introduced hydration testing for specialised mag chrome bricks used in refractory lining – to check if bricks were still usable;
  • Introduced hydration testing for specialised mag chrome bricks used in refractory lining to check brick quality; 
  • Improved the refractory lining for the client’s short rotary furnace, bettering operating times and production costs; and
  • Procured cost-effective and high-quality refractory bricks. 

Service excellence initiatives and innovative solutions

  • Provided round the clock onsite refractory services with zero emergency call-out failure during nights, weekends, and public holidays;
  • Used integrated refractory solutions for major shutdowns to reduce costs and enhance time savings; 
  • Effectively ensured stock management to mitigate stock outs and reduce man hours required to manage the process; and
  • Introduced innovative solutions and technologies to improve smelter performance and reduce repair times for critical smelter equipment replacements. 


Process Description

A core component of Veolia’s refractories management capability is its approach to quality improvement and asset management. Our asset management model defines the most important factors involved in decision-making and accountability with respect to operational and managerial  levels. 

Operational audits on Nyrstar’s procedures assisted the team in evaluating current processes to pinpoint areas of improvement and develop an asset management framework. The approach also involved deciding the remaining age value for critical repair items such as the refractory lining of a smelter. 


The Benefits To Our Client

Veolia’s quality improvement and asset management initiatives were key in helping Nyrstar meet its targets, and deliver cost savings benefits. Over the 10-year partnership, Veolia delivered savings in excess of $3 million, improved safety culture and standardisation as well as reduced Nyrstar Port Pirie’s carbon emissions footprint. 

The partnership has also, set a benchmark within the refractories industry for strong operational performance through continuous improvement, smarter processes and innovative technologies.



Reduction in carbon footprint



Supported the clients environmental objectives

Met stringent environmental regulatory obligations

Reduced carbon emissions through asset management



Improved safety culture and standardisation

Regional training and development


Across the board Veolia Refractories have delivered savings well in excess of $1 million to our site and I would like to acknowledge the work of Grant Winn, Navin Singh and his Adelaide based Refractory team, as well as Bill Sayner and his site based team, for their ongoing commitment and support to assist us become world class.
Gail Bartel
Manager Corporate Communications, Nyrstar (2015)