FLSmidth develops revolutionary copper extraction process

Technology could make mines an extra 40 million dollars per year

The Danish engineering company FLSmidth has developed a new technology that has huge economic potential for copper production.

The new method of leaching – the process for extracting copper from the ore – can extract more copper from poor quality ore, increasing output by as much as 3 percent. This could mean an extra 40 million US dollars per year for an average copper mine.

Jens Almdal, the head of research and development at FLSmidth, explained that the 3 percent increase in production is massive by industry standards. “That is indeed a significant contribution to profitability in an industry that normally chases a 0.1-0.2 percent increase in copper recovery,” he said.

New potential
Existing methods work well for the top ore layer in open pit copper mines, but it is harder to extract the metal during the later stages of production.

Mining companies also have difficulty extracting copper from low-grade ore, or where it is contaminated with arsenic, Almdal explained. “A lot of existing mines have piles of copper concentrate with more than 0.5 percent arsenic concentrations, which is too high for smelting,” he said.

“Our technology can be used to process these piles of high arsenic concentrate or even make it possible to develop new mineral deposits high in arsenic.”

The technology, which is called FLSmidth Rapid Oxidative Leach, is a hydrometallurgy process that takes place at atmospheric pressure and 80 degrees centigrade, meaning that it can be carried out directly at the mine.