April 21, 2023: A review that could decide the future of lead smelting and refining operations at Glencore’s Portovesme subsidiary in Italy is expected within weeks, Batteries International understands.
Glencore executives discussed the possible ‘reconversion’ of operations — that could potentially end lead and zinc production — earlier this month with government ministers including Fausta Bergamotto, the under-secretary of state at Italy’s Ministry of Enterprises and Made in Italy, Batteries International has learned.
A source close to the talks said Glencore proposed setting up a working group to identify “economically and socially sustainable solutions” for Portovesme’s Sardinia operations.
But union leaders said on April 12 they feared up to 1,500 jobs could be lost and that Portovesme operations are at a virtual standstill.
FEMCA, the union representing workers in sectors including energy and chemistry, has called for Portovesme to be “put back on track”.
Lead smelting and refining operations are of strategic importance to the national economy and should be protected, FEMCA said.
Batteries International understands some lead is still being produced by Portovesme, although the firm’s San Gavino site is not operational. Glencore has declined to give details.
However, a spokesperson said on April 19 Glencore was fully engaged with unions and government officials in talks about the future of Portovesme’s sites in Sardinia.
The spokesperson declined to go into detail until the completion of the Portovesme review, which was launched several months ago in the wake of escalating energy costs.
The review should be completed by the end of May.
Portovesme was established in July 1999 when Glencore acquired the Portoscuso and San Gavino sites in Sardinia from ENI.
Glencore has said previously that Portovesme, the only Italian zinc and lead producer, is considered to be of national and strategic importance by the Italian government.
CRU’s lead market analyst Neil Hawkes told Batteries International last November that if Portovesme were to shut, it would only serve to further constrain European production and keep this regional lead market tight.