Advances in Complex Copper Concentrate Smelting at the Tsumeb Smelter

Additonal authors: Nolte, M.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:

Proceedings, Vol. Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019, 2019

Kruger, B.

The Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb Smelter has evolved over the last decade to meet the challenges and opportunities brought about by a changing copper concentrate market, technological advances, environmental legislation as well as social and political changes. The paper discusses some of the challenges, successes and lessons learnt through the expansion and modernization of its smelter complex. It considers the details and impact of the transition from slag granulation to that of slag slow cooling as well as the improvement program that was implemented to more than double the refractory campaign life of the Ausmelt furnace from around 6–9 months to 15–18 months. In addition, given the evolving world we live in, it considers the challenges that the smelter faces today, not the least of it being how to remain relevant in an age of digital and other 4th Industrial Revolution disruptions. INTRODUCTION Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb (DPMT) Smelter is located just outside the town of Tsumeb, in the Oshikoto region of Namibia. It is the largest town in the region with a population of approximately 45,000. The smelter was built in the early 1960s to treat concentrate from the nearby Tsumeb copper mines. Construction of the site was completed in 1962 and the smelter was officially commissioned in 1963 by Tsumeb Corporation Limited (TCL). At the time the smelter consisted of a lead section (including a refinery), a copper section and plants that produced cadmium, sodium antimonite and arsenic trioxide. Production commenced in early 1964, with 3,500 tonnes of copper and 6,000 tonnes of lead being produced per month. TCL was acquired by Gold Fields South Africa in 1988, and a few years later the lead section was shut down due to reduced lead content of the mined ore. In mid-1996, all mining and smelting operations were halted due to labour strikes. Ongopolo Mining and Processing Limited (OMPL) re-opened the mines and the smelter in 2000, only operating the copper section of the smelter. At the end of 2008, all mining operations were halted by the new owner of OMPL, Weatherly Mining International, while the smelter continued to operate. The closure of the Weatherly owned mines in Namibia, the primary feed source to the Tsumeb Smelter, meant that the smelter had to transition its business model from operating as a ‘captive smelter’ to that of a ‘toll smelter’. Its Ausmelt Top Submerged Lance (TSL) smelting technology and various ancillary plants made it especially suitable for accepting and treating complex concentrates that were available on the global market.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019