New smelter chief Nic Clift has revealed his long association with the company.
Mr Clift spoke to The Recorder at a dinner at the Function Centre at Memorial Oval on Friday to recognise the significant contribution of workers, past and present, at the 117-year-old smelter Sinter Plant which is now on care and maintenance.
"I have been here for three days. This is a very welcoming community," Mr Clift said.
"To arrive here out of the blue, and no-one knows you ... I have had a tremendous welcome from the shops, the hotel where I am staying and the plant."
Mr Clift and his wife Yvette, who specialised in environmental management, have a house in Melbourne and were on holiday in France when he was contacted about the new position.
"We came back early," he said.
He is now vice-president of the Australian operations for Nyrstar with responsibility also for the company's operations in Hobart.
"Port Pirie is my primary concern," he said. He was previously managing director of Melbourne-based Celamin which had a mine in Tunisia where he resolved issues with government and the local community.
Before that he was managing director of Adelaide-based Terramin, a mining company.
Mr Clift has worked in Guinea, the Congo, Zambia, France, Germany and Mount Isa.
"It is my third time back in this group. I was with Pasminco, Zinifex and now back here," he said.
"I am very familiar with this business and its technology. I was involved in the initial development of the new technology being used here for the primary smelter."
He said his wife had worked as an environmental manager with a couple of companies in Africa.
"She has been looking at the environment here, particularly across the river, and giving me her thoughts on what she has seen around town," he said.
Uncertainty has now lifted regarding the future of the smelter.
Asked whether the plant now had a good future under likely new owner Trafigura, Mr Clift responded extremely favourably.
"These changes are always complicated. I take my hat off to my predecessor for what he has done," he said.
Previous VP of the smelter Mark Zaborowski has left the company.
Mr Clift said that once the smelter was operating in a stable fashion, "which is very soon", there was the potential in the future for recycling of urban waste, high-value waste and military waste that contained copper and gold.
Batteries could also be processed.
"We would look to stop all those materials going into landfill or being sent overseas for treatment," he said.
"We could be doing that here."
However an enormous amount of work still needs to be undertaken before the smelter would be in a position for this to occur as part of its normal operation.