Energy Consumption in Copper Smelting: A New Asian Horse in the Race

27 August, 2015 | White paper

Joël Kapusta, PhD

Metallurgy Expert

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After a marked improvement in energy consumption in copper smelting during the past few decades, technology development has been slowing down in the Americas and in Europe. Innovation, however, is still required to further reduce energy consumption while complying with stringent environmental regulations. The bottom blowing smelting technology being developed in China shows success and promise. The general configuration of the bath smelting vessel, the design of high-pressure injectors, and the concentrate addition system are described and discussed in this article with respect to those used in other technologies. The bottom blowing technology is shown to be operating at a temperature in the range of 1160–1180C, which is the lowest reported temperature range for a modern copper smelting process. In this article, it is suggested that top feeding of filter cake concentrate, which is also used in other technologies, has a positive effect in reducing the oxidation potential of the slag (p(O2)) while increasing the FeS solubility in slag. This reduction in p(O2) lowers the slag liquidus by reducing the magnetite content, while the increased solubility of FeS in slag helps toward reaching very low copper levels in flotation slag tailings. The application of high-pressure injectors allows for the use of high levels of oxygen enrichment with no requirements for punching. Using a standard modeling approach from the authors’ previous studies, this article discusses these aspects and compares the energy consumption of the bottom blowing technology with that of other leading flash and bath smelting technologies, namely: flash smelting, Noranda/Teniente Converter, TSL (Isasmelt [Glencore Technology Pty. Ltd., Brisbane, Queensland, Australia]/Outotec), and the Mitsubishi Process (Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, Tokyo, Japan)

Note that this white paper was written in collaboration with Pascal Coursol, Phillp J. Mackey and Nubia Cardona Valencia. It was the subject of a publication in the Journal of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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