copper processing plants copper production


Teck operates the Highland Valley Copper mine in British Columbia, Canada, the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in northern Chile and the Carmen de Andacollo copper mine in central Chile. We also have an interest in the Antamina copper/zinc mine in Peru, one of the world's largest base metal mines. In addition, Teck has a pipeline of copper projects in various stages of development. This includes our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 Project, which is currently under construction.

Our customers can be confident in our ability to ensure a long-term, reliable supply of quality copper and molybdenum concentrates. Concentrate production is a process where the main metallic compounds of the mines ore are separated and 'concentrated'. This concentrated material is then sold to smelters for further refining. The marketing of base metal concentrates is a key element of Teck's business. Our concentrate sales span the globe.

We produce copper cathode at our Carmen de Andacollo and Quebrada Blanca Operations in Chile. Both mines are open pit operations where ore is leached to produce copper cathodes via processing in SX-EW plants. Copper cathode production is trucked from the operations for shipment to purchasers.

Teck operates the Highland Valley Copper mine in British Columbia, Canada, the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in northern Chile and the Carmen de Andacollo copper mine in central Chile. We also have an interest in the Antamina copper/zinc mine in Peru, one of the world's largest base metal mines. In addition, Teck has a pipeline of copper projects in various stages of development. This includes our Quebrada Blanca Phase 2 Project, which is currently under construction.

Our customers can be confident in our ability to ensure a long-term, reliable supply of quality copper and molybdenum concentrates. Concentrate production is a process where the main metallic compounds of the mines ore are separated and 'concentrated'. This concentrated material is then sold to smelters for further refining. The marketing of base metal concentrates is a key element of Teck's business. Our concentrate sales span the globe.

We produce copper cathode at our Carmen de Andacollo and Quebrada Blanca Operations in Chile. Both mines are open pit operations where ore is leached to produce copper cathodes via processing in SX-EW plants. Copper cathode production is trucked from the operations for shipment to purchasers.

As one of Canadas leading mining companies, Teck is committed to responsible mining and mineral development with major business units focused on copper, zinc, and steelmaking coal, as well as investments in energy assets.

copper & mineral processing plants | ausenco

A recognised leader in copper processing and concentrating, our exceptional expertise and technically advanced methods of delivering copper concentrators and processing plants has resulted in cost effective projects being successfully completed on time and on budget, with excellent safety performance.

We overcome extreme temperatures, remote locations, challenging terrain and harsh climates, whilst maintaining our dedication to safely delivering projects on time and on budget. Our end-to-end solutions are proven to lower capital and operating costs, reduce construction time and improve plant efficiencies.

We have successfully delivered copper concentrators, copper leaching and copper solvent extraction-electrowinning projects and studies. This includes the construction of very large scale processing facilities such as the Lumwana Project in Zambia, Phu Kham Project in Laos and the Constancia Project located in the Andes in south-eastern Peru.More examples of our world-leading copper expertise include:

Redefining what's possible and delivering value-adding consulting studies, project delivery and asset operations and maintenance solutions to the Minerals & Metals, Oil & Gas and Industrial sectors, globally.

mount isa copper mine, queensland, australia

Its copper operations include two underground copper mines, Enterprise and X41, with ore mining capacity of 6.2 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), a concentrator with 7Mtpa capacity, a copper smelter, and support services.

Since acquiring the operations, Xstrata Copper undertook steps to improve performance and expanded its smelter capacity at Mt Isa to 300,000tpa. Xstrata was acquired by Glencore in 2013 and the Mount Isa became part of the latters operations.

Mount Isa mine offers job opportunities for more than 3,200 individuals and contractors. In 2018, the company started the Black Rock Cave ore body development to improve on the copper resource at the Mount Isa operations.

Brecciated siliceous and dolomitic rock masses within the Urquhart Shale contain several orebodies that comprise complex veins and irregular segregations with chalcopyrite, pyrite and pyrrhotite and grading 3% to 4% copper.

Prospector John Campbell Miles discovered silver-lead ore at Mount Isa in 1923. Mining began the following year and Mount Isa Mines was formed. During Mount Isa Mines early years, the company focused on zinc-lead-silver production with only a brief period of copper production during the Second World War. Parallel production of zinc-lead-silver and copper did not begin until 1953.

The years from 1969 to 1974 saw more expansion at Mount Isa Mines. Development of copper orebodies and improvements at the companys Townsville refinery boosted copper production dramatically. The next surge of development came in the late 1990s when close to A$1bn was invested in various projects, including two new mines and an expansion of the copper smelter and the Townsville refinery. Xstrata acquired Mount Isa Mines in June 2003 through its MIM Holdings Limited acquisition.

During the late 1980s, MIM started to develop the orebodies located between levels 21 and 36. A ramp was driven down from the U62 loading station and an ABB-Kiruna electric truck hoisting system fitted. Production started in 1993. In 1996, MIM launched the A$370m Enterprise Mine project designed to raise deep copper output to 3.5Mtpa.

The 713m-deep internal M62 shaft opened in 2000, with refrigeration and paste backfill plants completed in 2001. Meanwhile, the 1100 operation became the X41 Mine. In June 2004, Xstrata approved the development of the Northern 3,500 orebody to maintain rated capacity by supplying 5.3Mt ore grading 4.5% Cu over 11 years, starting in late 2006. This should enable the Enterprise mine to achieve its rated concentrator throughput of 3.5Mtpa.

The mining operations at Mount Isa Mines are expected to continue at least until 2023. Sub-level caving is used at the Black Rock orebody for better economics. The orebody will be brought into production by the end of 2020. PYBAR Mining Services was awarded a contract to develop Black Rock.

The copper concentrator was rebuilt in 1973, with rod and ball milling and three-stage flotation, to supply the roaster and conventional blister copper smelter on site. In 1981, Mount Isa commenced anode casting as well. In 1988-1989, two 6.4MW AG/SAG grinding mills replaced the rod and ball mills at a cost of A$35m.

During 2004, Xstrata decided to add 40,000tpa of copper output by slag treatment and related developments, and also approved a 2,500tpa copper-leaching plant to treat smelter electrostatic-precipitator dust.

copper ore processing methods

The four major steps in the production of marketable copper are mining, concentrating, smelting, and refining. In a few instances, however, leaching takes the place of concentrating, smelting, and refining. At present, although considerable leaching and direct-smelting ores are produced, the bulk of the copper ore mined is concentrated.

The milling of copper ores as practiced in the larger concentrators has changed to such an extent that comparatively few of the machines in use at the beginning of the period remain in service today. Primary and secondary crushing by machines of the Blake and gyratory types and intermediate and fine crushing by rolls has survived, but in the grinding field the development of pebble-mill grinding, the substitution of balls for pebbles, and the parallel development of drag-type classifiers have all but eliminated Chilean and Huntington mills. In the concentrating field, machines which effected separations on the basis of difference in specific gravity between copper and gangue minerals have been almost completely replaced by flotation equipment. In the Lake Superior district jigs and tables have, of course, been retained, and in a few concentrators which treat sulphide copper ores tables have been retained owing to unusual conditions at the plants or the smelters that treat the mill concentrates.

The flotation process, which was responsible for the almost complete change in equipment, has also undergone marked changes since its introduction in large-capacity concentrators. Flotation, when first introduced between 1913 and 1916, was used primarily to reduce losses of copper in the fine tailings of gravity plants. From an accessory to gravity methods, flotation very rapidly became a major process and finally, from 1923 to 1927, all but eliminated the gravity method in the treatment of low-grade sulfide copper ores.

The rapid development of ball-mill grinding must also be attributed to the adoption of the flotation process, since it was the incentive for developing grinding methods which produced considerable copper minerals too finely divided for successful recovery by existing gravity methods.

As with gold and other ores, details of practice vary because of differences in the ores or on account of economic considerations. Five figures are presented to illustrate in a general way the concentrating methods employed for treating the different types of ores.

Figure 150 is the flow sheet of one unit of the gravity concentration section of the Calumet & Hecla Conglomerate mill. The sand tailing from the mill is treated by ammonia leaching and the slime tailing by flotation. Since metallic copper is malleable, it cannot be broken and pulverized as can the more friable minerals, and after first picking out the larger lumps or nuggets of copper by hand, crushing is done by steam stamps; pebble mills instead of ball mills are employed for grinding because of the abrasive qualities of the gangue.

Figure 151 is the flow sheet of one section of the Cananea Consolidated Copper Co. mill as it was in 1929. This is a simple straight-flotation process that replaced an earlier combined gravity and bulk-

Figure 152 is the flow sheet of the Miami Copper Co. concentrator as it was in 1932; A shows the crushing plant and B the grinding and flotation units. Figure 153 is the flow sheet of the Miami concentrate re-treatment and filter plants. The ores are composed of chalcocite and pyrite with subordinate amounts of oxidized copper minerals disseminated mainly in a quartz-sericite schist.

pyrite with minor amounts of gold and silver. The bulk concentrates are dewatered and, after additional grinding, are again subjected to flotation. The latter operation produces finished copper concentrate, finished pyrite concentrate, and middlings which are re-treated.

10 top copper-producing companies | codelco is first | inn

While construction and electrical grids have long been big markets for copper, today the rise in demand for electric vehicles, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage applications are considered some of the biggest drivers of copper consumption.

Given those factors, investors may want to keep an eye on the worlds top copper-producing companies. According to the latest stats from financial market data provider Refinitiv, the following top copper-producing companies produced the most copper in 2020.

The first top copper-producing company on the list is state-owned Codelco. As the worlds biggest copper producer, the company put out 1.76 million tonnes in 2020. Although there were concerns early in the year that operation curtailments due to the coronavirus pandemic would knock Codelco from its top spot, the Chilean company defied those expectations to meet its production guidance for the year.

In May 2021, Codelco announced the start of a US$1.4 billion project aimed at extending the life of its Salvador mine through 2068 by converting the underground mine to an open-pit operation. The project is a part of the companys 10 year, US$40 billion plan to upgrade its many aging mines.

Major diversified miner Glencore produced 1.26 million tonnes of copper in 2020. After suffering an 11 percent drop in copper production for the first half of the year versus the same period in 2019, the company cut its annual production guidance for the full year to 1.23 million tonnes.

Rather than COVID-19 disruptions, Glencore attributed its production declineto its Mutanda mine being placed on care and maintenance in 2019. Operations at Mutanda, the worlds biggest cobalt mine, are set to resume sometime in 2022. In addition to cobalt, the mine has five copper production lines.

In 2020, BHP produced 1.21 million tonnes of the red metal. The Australian mining giant managed to keep its copper production numbers high despite the years COVID-19 disruptions and strikes at Escondida, the worlds largest copper mine.

One of the companys biggest copper assets is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia, the 10th largest copper mine in the world. The company continues to make significant investments in Grasberg to increase both its copper and its gold production.

Canadas First Quantum Minerals produced more than 715,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The company was able to increase its production guidance for the year despite temporary coronavirus shutdowns at its Cobre Panama mining operation.

Rio Tintos copper production in 2020 totaled 548,074 tonnes. The company is one of the largest diversified mining companies in the world behind BHP and like BHP, Rio Tinto was also negatively impacted by strikes at Chiles Escondida mine. Rio Tinto holds a 30 percent interest in the project.

Polands KGHM Polska Miedz has operations in Europe, North America and South America, and says that it holdsover 38 million tonnes of copper ore resources worldwide. In 2020, the company produced more than 543,000 tonnes of copper.

KGHM recently announced its cutting a few small assets from its portfolio, including the Carlotta copper mine in the US. In the first quarter of 2021, the company achieved its best operating and financial results in nearly a decade.

Chilean copper miner Antofagasta operates four mines in Chile and produced more than 503,000 tonnes of copper in 2020. The companys output was impacted by having to place its flagship Los Pelambres mine on care and maintenance, as well as by lower grades at its Antucoya operations.

Antofagasta recently pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2025 by using renewable energy sources. By the end of 2020, the company reported that it was already powering 19 percent of its operations with renewable sources.

Moving forward, by 2030 Norilsk Nickel is looking to increase its copper production by 20 percent from its current level. The company is upgrading its production capacity at the Ruchey copper-nickel mine, replacing its obsolete Kola copper refinery with a state-of-the-art plant.

Please remember that by requesting an investor kit, you are giving permission for those companies to contact you using whatever contact information you provide. If you want more than 20 investor kits, you need to make multiple requests. Select 20, complete the request and then select again.

Where is Aurubis in your list? They have 4 large copper refineries 2 in Germany Hamburg 383 000 tpa, and Lnen 200 000 tpa, Olen in Belgium 350 000 tpa and Pirdop in Bulgaria 232 000 tpa. Thats over a million tpa, quite an omission.

copper mines & concentrators: fluor epc

From greenfield projects to large copper concentrator production expansions, Fluor offers engineering, procurement and construction services to copper mining and processing facilities around the world.

Fluor is the world leader in development of hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processing plants for the copper industry. Its project experience extends from initial evaluative studies to the engineering, design and construction of copper concentrator facilities, smelters, electrorefineries, heap leach, solvent extraction and electrowinning projects.

Helping clients to maximize their recoveries, Fluor draws on experience at some of the world's major copper concentrators and processing plants in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, United States and Zambia.

Over the last five years, Fluor has participated in the design and construction in over 30 small-scale and large-scale copper concentrator projects around the world ranging from 5,000-tpd to 240,000-tpd facilities. Many of these plants have progressed from the original project through to a series of staged expansions.

sandfire gets all clear to build $279m motheo in another fillip for botswana copper district - miningmx

According to a definitive feasibility study, the mine will have an initial 12.5-year life, producing on average about 30,000 tons of contained copper and 1.2 million ounces of contained silver per annum over the first 10 years of operations.

Motheo is expected to generate approximately 1,000 jobs during construction and 600 full-time jobs during operations, and represents the foundation for Sandfires long-term growth plans in Botswana, said Karl Simich, CEO of Sandfire Resources.

As part of the mining licence approval process, the Botswana government has a right to buy up to a 15% in the Motheo project. It had not yet notified Sandfire of its intention regarding the acquisition of an ownership stake, the company said.

Last week, Khoemacau Copper Mines produced the first copper-silver concentrate from its Boseto process plant in Botswana.The project has the capacity to produce 155,000 to 165,000 tons of high-grade copper and silver concentrate a year, containing 60,000 to 65,000 tons of payable copper and 1.8 to two million oz of payable silver, it said.

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processing of complex materials in the copper industry: challenges and opportunities ahead | springerlink

With the gradual decrease in the grade of copper ores being processed, copper concentrates have become more complex with higher impurity and gangue content. This trend has had a detrimental effect on smelters as they have to increase throughput to maintain copper metal production, while increasing operating costs due to processing the increased amounts of secondary products (slag, acid) and stabilizing waste streams. This paper discusses impacts from the increased complexity of resources from mine to smelters, highlighting the need for an integrated processing approach to achieve sustainable and competitive multi-metal recovery.

Processing of complex materials in non-ferrous smelting has traditionally been approached as a niche opportunity to capture the economic value contained in the mining resources. Depending on the nature and complexity of the resources, miners have sometimes adopted processing options at the mine site, such as ultra-fine grinding, alternative flotation circuits, or hydrometallurgical processes, to reduce the concentration of elements that would reduce the value of their product. Meanwhile, their customers, the smelters, addressed complexity either by developing new processes or by modifying operating conditions to enhance the removal of deleterious elements. In some cases, synergies and cooperation between base metal processing facilities have improved recovery and waste management. However, in most cases, the copper industry has used dilution as the main response, either by blending of complex materials in central facilities or by diluting small quantities in large feed streams to smelters.

Copper is recognized a cornerstone element to support the move towards a more sustainable society with eco-efficient living standards, e-mobility, efficient house designs, environmentallyfriendly public spaces, transportation designs, and medical applications to reduce disease transmission.

At the time of writing, the global economy faces an unprecedented shock from the impact of coronavirus which has reduced copper demand and prices. This will change as global stimulus and infrastructure programs lift the economy, and this will be an opportunity to stress the positive aspects of copper, not only in the traditional applications of infrastructure but also in less widespread applications in hospitals and public spaces to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

It is therefore essential that the copper industry prepares itself by getting a clear understanding of future supply volume and resource quality. If we face increased copper demand, we need to understand the expected complexity in supply and how this will impact processing facilities in terms of recoveries, product quality, and waste management. This analysis should also consider the increasing pressure to process urban mining resources in existing industrial facilities, since these resources will bring additional complexity that will impact business performance.

What type of complex materials will copper smelters potentially receive in the coming years? What impurities are going to increase in the copper concentrates? How will size distribution for liberation of copper species in the concentrator impact pyrometallurgical processing? What synergies between base metals processors will be required to optimize recoveries and minimize environmental impact? Addressing these queries will allow smelters to understand how they should adjust their operations to maximize the recovery of copper and other valuable elements, and the impact on secondary streams such as slag, acid and dust.

A global copper mine-by-mine review undertaken by ICSG found that the global average copper ore grade was as low as 0.45% copper in reported reserves and only 0.65% copper in 2015 copper mine production. Global weighted average of copper concentrate output in a large sample of plants was around 25% copper in 2015 data. There are significant data published on the falling copper ore grades in recent decades, but a factor of concern is that the ore grades in recently operational mines are not over 0.53%, while copper grades in new projects and in undeveloped mines are not over 0.43% copper on average.2

The results of the copper mine ore grades survey carried out by the ICSG are shown in Fig.1. A review of the copper reserves in million tonnes of copper and the copper ore grades (percentage of copper) using the latest data for the top 56 copper mines of the world, ranked by reserves, produced the following findings: only 9 of the 56 copper mines with the largest reserves of copper presented copper ore grades over 1% copper content; and only 7 of the 56 copper mines with more copper reserves presented reserves over 40 million tonnes each. So, in 40 cases, representing almost 73% of the copper mines with important reported reserves, the copper ore grades are below 1% copper and the reserves are below 40 million tonnes copper content.

If we consider only the top 20 copper mines with the most important reserves of copper (over 1,000 million tonnes of copper reserves) the average copper ore grade of this group is only 0.76% copper, including deposits with a high average copper ore grade, such as Tenke Fungurume with 2.32%Cu, Resolution with 1.5%Cu, Taimyr Peninsula (Norilsk-Talnakh) with 1.45%Cu and Udokan with 0.97%Cu. Other mines with relatively high ore grades include the Ertsberg-Grasberg Group with 0.88%Cu, RosarioRosario Oeste with 0.82%Cu, Collahuasi with 0.81%Cu, and Olympic Dam with 0.78%Cu. Lower ore grades are reported in mines with high reserves, such as Los Bronces-Los Bronces Sur with 0.64%Cu), Andina with 0.62%Cu, but with the largest reported reserves, El Teniente with 0.56%Cu, Escondida-Main Mine with 0.54%Cu, the largest producer in recent decades, and Los Pelambres with 0.51%Cu.

If we look at mines with high reserve volumes and lower copper contents, we can report Butte Group with 0.48%Cu. The reserves in the expansion of Escondida-Pampa Escondida only report 0.45%Cu, meanwhile Chuquicamata report 0.43%Cu, similar to Buenavista del Cobre (Cananea) reporting 0.42%Cu, and Radomiro Tomic also reporting 0.42%Cu. Lower grades in large reserves are reported by the Pebble project with only 0.34%Cu and Morenci with 0.25%Cu.

Many copper resources and reserves in mineral deposits report higher copper content than porphyry deposit, however, the most abundant low-grade porphyry deposits were mined first, and this is the reason why global copper ore grades went down on average during 19902018. Current technology to extract low-grade copper reserves indicates that higher-grade copper deposits are not necessarily mined first. Many low ore grade deposits remain operating as is the case of Morenci, Toquepala, Cerro Verde, Centinela, Quebrada Blanca, Cuajone, Radomiro Tomic, and Los Bronces. The grade produced from established mines tends to reduce with age. Other relatively low-grades deposit, such as Quellaveco, are advancing in the project pipeline. However other high-grade deposits, such as the Olympic Dam expansions, Pokowice, Oyu Tolgoy, Grasberg Underground, and other higher ore grade projects, are slowly advancing to the production stage.3

Higher throughput rates and more efficient mineral processing has maintained copper output; however, with lower feed copper content and increasing energy and water use per unit of output, extraction costs have been increasing in important copper mines. Using the Chilean copper mining industry as an example, the use of fossil fuels increased over 33% in 20102018, while the use of electricity increased by around 38% in this same period.4

From the mine processing point of view, the reduction in ore grades and mineralogy changes suggest the need to adapt current mining and mineral processing techniques to maintain production targets of metal units and quality. However, in some cases, opposite strategies have been followed. For example, some Chinese operations have processed low-grade copper concentrates.5 These trends suggest a dynamic balance between copper mines and processers in terms of defining where to invest and where is the best place to remove each impurity. This requires a balance between metal recovery, processing cost, acid production, and slag generation.

Figure2 shows data on the composition of 32 major traded concentrates, with the mineral composition calculated from publicly available assay data (which should therefore be considered to be approximate).6 Expanding the data to 180 traded concentrates shows an average grade of 27% Cu, even though concentrates average only around 5560% copper sulfides. This is due to the presence of the minerals chalcocite (79.9%Cu) and covellite (66.4%Cu), which are much higher grade than chalcopyrite (34.6%Cu).

However, chalcocite and covellite are secondary copper sulfides that occur in higher proportions in the close-to-surface ore zones. As the shallower zones are depleted, more mines are moving into deeper areas with increased primary mineralization, that is, a higher proportion of copper is contained in chalcopyrite (New African deposits are the exception to the industry trend towards higher chalcopyrite, but concentrates from African mines are rarely traded internationally.) This will cause a gradual decrease in the copper concentrate grade of traded concentrates, unless efforts are made to make concentrates mineralogically cleaner; that is, the proportion of copper sulfides would have to increase above the current level of 5560% by removing more iron sulfides and non-sulfide gangue minerals. To achieve this, concentrators would need to increase the mineral processing power, including finer regrinding and more intense flotation cleaning of the concentrates. These modifications to grinding and flotation require more capital investment and increase operating costs at the mine site, so many operators will choose to pass the lower-grade concentrates to smelters instead, so long as their concentrate is marketable and the penalties are less than the required capital and operating costs. This is reflected in the increase in the use of blending facilities as the primary tool to reduce the impact of complexity in smelters. Figure3 shows the blending facilities strategically located around the globe.

Increases in gangue and sulfur content directly impact the production of slag and sulfuric acid, both considered secondary products in copper production. Minor element concentration will not only affect the secondary products but also the main output of the smelter, copper anodes. Figure4 shows a comparison for copper anode impurities between 2007 and 2019:8 arsenic, tellurium, bismuth, selenium, nickel, and antimony concentrations in copper anodes have all increased.

This increase in impurities in the copper anodes has not only affected the electrorefining process but also intermediate streams, sub-product quality, and the options for dust and residue recycling to the smelting furnace. This has increased the need to incorporate bleeding options or synergies with other base metal operations to achieve more sustainable metal recovery, waste stabilization, and overall sustainable processing.

Pyrometallurgical processing of complex copper concentrates has been traditionally associated with the smelting of specific materials containing substantial concentrations of deleterious elements, such as arsenic and/or smelted polymetallic base metal concentrates containing relevant quantities of copper, lead, and zinc as carrier metals, associated with precious metals and other elements. In most cases, such materials have been processed in facilities integrated with or close to the mine site. Examples include the processing of Cu-As concentrates in Kosaka in Japan, the roasting of Cu-As concentrates at El Indio in Chile, and the processing of Cu-As concentrates from the Consolidated Mine in The Philippines at the Lepanto Roaster.9 Most of these plants have had a limited operating life, as they were originally designed to treat specific mine resources with a limited mine life. However, with the commissioning of the Ministro Hales roaster in Chile, a renewed interest in roasting has emerged as a niche solution for processing high-arsenic concentrates. This could potentially allow simpler and more cost-effective integrated metallurgical plants using one-step pyrometallurgical processing, i.e., direct-to-blister processing of roaster calcine. In principle, the overall capital cost of such a facility should be competitive considering the reduction in equipment and material handling.

In the case of polymetallic concentrates, a more robust approach to increase metal recovery and multi-metal production has been to develop multi-metal recovery facilities. The main goals of these facilities are to achieve maximum metal recoveries and optimum waste and effluent management by the exchange of metal flows between the different metallurgical circuits. This principle, shown in Fig.5, is applied in metallurgical integrated plants, such as the Kazzinc Ust-Kamenogorsk Metallurgical Complex in Kazakhstan,10 the Boliden Rnnskr Smelter,11 or in multi-integrated sites in Japan,12 Germany13 and Korea,14 among others.

However, even in these integrated facilities, it still not yet feasible to recover elements such as W, Mo, V, Mn, Cr, Nb, Ta, Li, and the rare earths. Considering the future challenges that will arise from processing increasing quantities of batteries, additional efforts will be required to adapt metallurgical circuits to recover new elements.

Additional efforts have been made in countries like Japan and Germany to develop technologies to recover rare metals from waste from small electronic and electric appliances, prioritizing pre-processing of these materials before being fed into copper smelting circuits.16 The aim is to improve recovery rates and the range of elements that can be economically recovered.

TableIII shows a compilation of metallurgical complex processing plants that were or are currently operating in the western world, aiming to use base metal carrier properties to optimize and maximize precious metal recovery. In most of these plants, base metal volume production is not as relevant as the concentration of valuable precious metals. These plants can potentially process industrial wastes, city incinerator metallic sub-products, recycling oils, and others. Countries like Korea and Japan have been pioneers in this approach at their non-ferrous operating plants.

Metallurgical plants in Japan are using a similar approach by integrating primary and secondary complex processing sites and maximizing synergies between them to increase metal recovery. In the case of Japan, special emphasis has been made to process complex secondary raw materials and industrial waste using the ability of existing smelting facilities to recover valuable metals. Figure6 shows the concept applied by JX Nippon Mining to combine primary resources with secondary and industrial waste resources.

Figure7 shows the process flowsheet of the lead secondary copper smelter.20 The flowsheet allows the integration and transfer of materials with the primary copper smelter. The lead smelter and refinery involve:

On the secondary copper side, one of the most successful expressions of an integrated recycling system has been the implementation of the Kayser Recycling System (KRS+). This flowsheet, which was developed to recover copper, lead, tin, and precious metals, has been in operation since 2002 in Lnen, Germany. Figure8 shows the Lnen process flowsheet.23

A precious metal plant is also integrated into the base metal operation to produce gold and silver. The Ust-Kamenogorsk metallurgical complex is able to process highly complex materials with high recoveries given by the integrated nature of the plant. Figure9 shows a simplified process flowsheet.

Arsenic has been a recurrent challenge in the management of deleterious elements in the processing of copper concentrates. Arsenic content has gradually increased in copper concentrates to levels that are almost above the standard arsenic blending concentrations that most western smelters in Europe, Asia (excluding China), and North America can operate. A clear example of the gradual increase of arsenic in copper concentrates can be demonstrated by the behavior in the blends processed in Japan. According to the Metals Economics Institute of Japan, arsenic content in copper concentrates processed in Japanese smelters has gradually increased since 1991 from 400ppm to over 1,000ppm in 2016, while the copper content in the concentrates decreased from near 33% to 27%Cu.26 This represents a 3 times increase in the units of As per unit of Cu in the feed. The same report estimates that standard copper concentrate blends could increase to 3,000ppm if new high As-containing deposits are brought into operation. Introducing such complex high-arsenic copper concentrates would require large amounts of clean concentrates to dilute the arsenic contents to levels acceptable from the technical and economic points of view by copper smelter.27

The impact of a small increase in the tonnes of high-arsenic concentrates is illustrated in Fig.10.28 Because of the more than tenfold higher arsenic units per unit of concentrate, what appears to be a small increase in the amount of high-arsenic concentrates forecast in Mayhew et al.28 almost doubles the arsenic units at smelting. Even if there were sufficient low-arsenic concentrates to dilute the average arsenic to acceptable limits, the smelting industry would still face a significant increase in the units (tonnes) of arsenic to be processed and disposed. This would appear to be an unsustainable position for the predominantly urban-located smelting industry. It indicates that technologies need to be adopted to reduce the arsenic content of copper concentrates at mine sites.

A large amount of fundamental work has been conducted to understand the behavior of arsenic in copper smelting. Thermodynamic and kinetic aspects as well as strategies to optimize capture and stabilization were summarised by Piret et al., who conducted an extensive review on the state of the art in 1989.29 The main conclusions of the Piret review are:

Effluent processing techniques allow the separation and recovery of arsenic in intermediate product. However, safe disposal of these arsenic intermediate streams will require developing environmentally stable compounds.

Most of the above criteria have been gradually applied to modern smelting operations, with new technologies being used for arsenic recovery, and safe disposal from copper smelting dust, refinery effluents, gas cleaning, and wastewater processing being gradually achieved.

TableIV shows the level of development of some technology responses for processing complex arsenic-containing materials.30, 31 Most of these technologies have been developed to process high-arsenic-containing streams. However, with blending continuing to be the most popular approach, a gradual increase in arsenic content in copper concentratesand a faster increase in the tonnes of arsenic processedshould be expected. This will exert more pressure on smelters, increasing their operating costs, jeopardizing their competitiveness, and increasing environmental compliance requirements.

Complexity, therefore, can be understood not only in terms of supply but also in terms of the effect on the business need to invest in peripherical equipment to increase capture, reduce emissions, and stabilize residues according to local regulations.

This gradual increase associated with operational procedures aimed to minimize waste outlets has gradually increased arsenic concentration in slags and, subsequently, reduced market opportunities for sub-products. Several efforts are currently undergoing in Chile, Germany, Australia, Japan, and Canada, among others, to develop pre-processing alternatives for safe arsenic removal prior to smelting or processing of secondary streams generated in the copper smelting processes.

The last two items in TableIV should be the first investigated in any integrated industry response. It is almost always more efficient to remove an impurity at ambient temperature and pressure in mineral processing rather than in smeltingso long as that impurity is in a discrete identifiable mineral. When arsenic in the current baseload of traded concentrates occurs in the form of arsenopyrite (FeAsS), or is apparently dissolved in iron sulfides, then it can be reduced by mineral separation applying modern fine regrinding and washed-froth cleaning. This is more technically efficient than removing the arsenic in smelting, but it is not always more economic for the miner. Though the technology is well proven, it requires capital investment and increases mine-site operating costs. Current concentrate contracts do not generally reward this investmentthat is, they do not send the correct cost signals to achieve the most efficient solution for the overall processing industry. Usually mine sites only adopt these technologies if they are essential to market their concentratefor example, some of the sites that produce the highest quality concentrates in Fig.2 do so in order to achieve limits on impurities such as U or F. The mineral processing steps to reduce the impurities to acceptable levels for marketing coincidentally reduce other mineral contamination, resulting in a significantly higher concentrate grade in high copper recovery (though in a finer-grained concentrate). If more accurate economic signals were sent through concentrate contracts, or if the copper industry agreed to an arsenic code, then the average arsenic level of currently traded concentrates could also be reduced.

A much more difficult mineral processing challenge is the selective flotation of arsenic-bearing copper minerals (e.g., enargite, Cu3AsS4, and tennantite, (Cu, Fe)12As4S13). These minerals have flotation characteristics very similar to non-arsenic-bearing copper minerals (chalcopyrite, chalcocite and bornite). Very small chemical windows for partial separation have been demonstrated in laboratory work, but these do not appear robust enough for practical application. Even if they were, they would still only split the same amount of arsenic between a low-arsenic copper concentrate and a high-arsenic copper concentrate. Either way, a new processing technology needs to be adopted if the copper industry is to avoid the transport and smelting of increased units of arsenic from these deposits. The atmospheric leaching processes in TableIV appear the most likely candidates, and they could be applied on-site or at a central facility to reduce arsenic content and dispose it locally and safely before transport to smelters.

Primary and secondary sources of base metals are gradually increasing in complexity. This complexity includes lower grade ore, lower grade concentrates, and increases in the concentration of minor metals and slagging elements. This pattern has clearly affected non-ferrous metal production, increasing operating costs, environmental compliance pressures, and the investment required to ensure a sustainable production of metals.

Alvear et al.32 discussed some key elements associated with the increasing complexity for primary copper production. This has been observed in the operation of secondary materials, such as the Kayser Recycling System, with increasing complexity and reduction in the concentration of base and precious metals in the sourced raw materials.

This pattern constantly challenges the competitiveness of smelters, who need regular evaluation of cost-effective measures to remain competitive. This is the most critical question for producers: How to differentiate from each other in an industry that has been traditionally regarded as a commodity business with common technologies.

Clearly, adequate technology transformation, selection and performance will play a crucial role in this race to enhance (1) superior metallurgical performance, (2) a sustainable and environmentally friendly operation, (3) adequate impurity management, and (4) proper product quality.

To this list, we add the need for better integration of mine-site technologies with smelting, to find the most efficient place for the industry to remove impurities. This requires constructive dialogue between miners and smelters. When the most efficient technical option is identified, then either concentrate contracts should send the right market signals, or the industry may need to agree to a code of practice to achieve the most sustainable outcome.

Knowledge integration plays a key role in the conceptualization and development of metallurgical processes. As complexity is expected to rise, modifications of existing metallurgical processes and/or developments of new ones will be required. Increased amounts of minor elements from copper complex concentrates as well as complex e-wastes and industrial residues will require sustainable processing.

In addition, with e-mobility as a target for the future, new processes able to recycle and recover battery elements will be required. These potential new processes will benefit from synergies from existing metallurgical plants; however, careful evaluation of the impact on existing streams will be required. New smelters will need to move from a standard processing that is becoming more competitive and less profitable to explore processing of complex urban wastes, metallurgical residues, and complex materials to secure profitable business. Competition with low-cost smelters, mostly located in China, will become more difficult.

As these operations move to consider new business opportunities, integrated approaches to develop technologies will be required. Integration will mean not only technical knowledge but also business expertise in non-traditional materials and full understanding of supply chains.

Sustainable production of metals is of paramount importance to meet community demand along with a sustainable future of our planet. As demand for copper and contained valuable metals increases and the grade of available ores decreases, processing of more complex materials will be necessary.

The most efficient technical solutions will involve a combination of mineral processing and hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processing techniques, and will include processing complex materials from both primary and secondary sources at both mine sites and smelters.

In this framework, a resource-to-cathode vision that incorporates synergies between mines, concentrators, smelters, and refineries will be required. This needs to start with open technical dialogue, followed by commercial understanding of the most efficient ways to remove impurities, and then be supported by the right market signals to achieve the more efficient outcomes.

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International Copper Study Group, Solid Wastes in Base Metal Mining, Smelting and Refining: A Comprehensive Study for the Copper, Lead, Zinc and Nickel Industries. Accessed 10 April 2020.

C. Montes and A. Gonzlez, Consumos de Energa y Recursos Hdricos en la Minera del Cobre al 2017 (Comisin Chilena del Cobre, Santiago, 2017)., Accessed 15 April 2020.

N. Piret and A. Mellin, in International Symposium on Productivity and Technology in the Metallurgical Industry. ed. by M. Koch and J. Taylor. The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (September 1722, Cologne, Germany, 1989), pp. 735814.

E. Partelpoeg, Review of La Oroya Smelter (2014). Accessed 12 April 2020.

A.S. Burrows, G.R.F. Alvear Flores, and A.T. Tynybayev, in Proceedings of Cu 2013, Vol III Pyrometallurgy. Eds. by. R. Bassa, R. Parra, A. Luraschi, and S. Demetrio. IIMCH (December 14, Santiago, Chile, 2013), pp 3948.

N. Yamazaki, Trends of Arsenic in Copper Raw Materials and its Technical Countermeasure in the Copper Industry (Japan Oil, Gas Metals National Corporation, Tokyo, 2018). Accessed 10 April 2020.

G.R.F. Alvear Flores, Arsenic Management for the Copper Smelting Industry (Japan Oil, Gas Metals National Corporation, Tokyo, 2018). Accessed 10 April 2020.

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D. Dreisinger, Arsenic: The Argument for Hydrometallurgical Processing and Stabilization at the Mine Site (Japan Oil, Gas Metals National Corporation, Tokyo, 2018). Accessed 10 April 2020.

Flores, G.A., Risopatron, C. & Pease, J. Processing of Complex Materials in the Copper Industry: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead. JOM 72, 34473461 (2020).