Arsine Risk Management at CCR’s Electrolyte Purification Plant

Additonal authors: Persson, H.. 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

Servière, B.

The CCR refinery, which was built in 1931, treats both internal and third party copper anodes to produce 325,000 mt of copper as cathodes. These anodes contain high levels of impurities, such as Ni, As, Sb and Bi, that reports to the electrolyte during the refining step and need to be removed in order to maintain cathode quality and operating efficiencies. In the purification plant, the electrolyte is de-copperized via electrowinning in three stages. In the last stage, the copper content of the electrolyte is reduced to below 1 gpl in order to maximize the co-deposition of As, Sb and Bi with the Cu. This is accomplished with minimum arsine gas generation by using periodic reversal of the current and by controlling the final copper content of the electrolyte. Nevertheless, the possibility of exposure to arsine is treated as a major risk and controls have been implemented to reduce this risk. This paper describes the controls in place at the purification plant, which are being continuously improved through periodic risk assessments and audits. INTRODUCTION The CCR Refinery, which is a part of Glencore Canada Corporation and located in Montreal-East, Quebec, is a custom copper and precious metal refinery, with a capacity to refine 325,000 tonnes of copper anodes per year. Copper anodes are received from the Horne smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Altonorte smelter in Chile and other 3rd party smelters. CCR anodes are produced using the spent anodes from the tankhouse along with purchased spent anodes and copper scrap. The precious metal plant treats the tankhouse anode slime, purchased anode slime, precious metal ingots and Doré anodes from Glencore’s Brunswick lead smelter in Belledune, New Brunswick. CCR products include copper cathodes, silver and gold bullion, a platinum-palladium concentrate, selenium, tellurium dioxide and nickel sulfate. In 1975 an accident occurred at CCR where two employees were exposed to fatal levels of arsine emitted from the then existing purification cells. This process was therefore shut down immediately. Research and development work was then initiated to determine the optimum electrowinning conditions whereby arsine gas generation would be minimized while maintaining high copper and impurity removal efficiencies. It was found that the application of periodic reversal of current (PRC) during the last stage of electrowinning retarded the onset of arsine formation while at the same time allowing the copper concentration to be reduced to less than 1 gpl (Houlachi & Claessens, 1978). A new purification plant was designed based on the PRC technology and was started up in 1976. In addition to the use of PRC electrowinning, the new plant is located in a fully enclosed section of the tankhouse. A special effort was made to design a ventilation system to evacuate the acid mist in addition to any arsine gas. Arsine monitors were installed to measure the emissions from the stack along with arsine levels in the workroom. The arsine monitors and the ventilation system were interlocked with the rectifiers (Thiriar et al., 1983).
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019