Researchers at The University of Queensland have developed a new approach to copper production. It is widely applicable and suited to around 70% of all copper reserves. Processing the copper ore onsite avoids the CO2 emissions and other costs of transporting the ore for smelting – instead this is carried out at the mine site to produce a higher value copper intermediate product.

The technology is based on an electrowinning approach but runs at higher efficiency with lower energy usage compared to traditional electrowinning. The power required for the electrowinning can be provided by onsite renewable energy generation.

The technology provides the following value to its users:

    • Reduced OPEX: Significant energy savings versus conventional electrowinning as more than half the energy for Cu EW is associated with oxidation of water.
    • CAPEX savings: Simpler hydrometallurgy process flowsheet (Leach-SX-EW) versus (Slurry EW) and no need for high temperature copper smelter/converter.
    • Clear separations of Cu, Co and Au allowing for efficient recovery of all three metals of interest.
    • Low environmental footprint (Low CO2 if renewable electricity, no smelter gas, largely benign solids residue, opportunities for water recycling).
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