Additonal authors: Taute, J. J.. Book title: Proceedings of the 58th Conference of Metallurgists Hosting Copper 2019. Chapter: . Chapter title:
Sole, K. C.
Global practice in copper solvent extraction is reviewed, based on individual plant operating data for 2018. The survey respondents account for almost 40% of global copper cathode production by solvent extraction and electrowinning. Regional trends in operating conditions, as related to the prevailing ore mineralogy, leaching processes, and life of mine are evaluated. The adoption and expansion of this technology in the African Copperbelt and Asia are assessed, together with the associated challenges of specific orebody characteristics. Trends in feed and electrolyte compositions and flow rates, and extractant and diluent selection, together with their impact on copper recovery are reviewed. The evolution of equipment design and associated ancillary processes are discussed, and new projects identified.
Continuing from similar surveys carried out in 1997, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2013 (Robinson, Davenport, & Jenkins, 1997; Jenkins, Davenport, Kennedy, & Robinson, 1999; Robinson, Sandoval, & Cook, 2003; Robinson, Moats, Davenport, Karcas, Demetrio, & Domic, 2007; Sole, Zarate, Steeples, Tinkler, & Robinson, 2013), global operating practice in copper solvent extraction (SX) in 2018 is reviewed. Contributing operations include established sites in the USA (8), Chile (9), Peru (2), Spain (1), Mexico (2), and Australia (2), as well as newer operations in Africa (7) and Asia (3). This survey represents 2018 copper cathode production of 1.91 Mt, or about 43% of world production by solvent extraction combined with electrowinning (SX–EW). Trends in operating conditions and performance, as well as equipment design and process technology choices are analysed. The significant expansion in production in the African Copper Belt is also discussed.
There are currently about 130 operations worldwide producing some 4.6 Mt copper by SX–EW; of these, about half produced more than 10 000 t/a. Figure 1 shows global copper production by country. As it has for several decades, Chile remains dominant, with 36% of global production of cathode copper. Since 2005, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has increased production year on year, and now represents 23% of the global total (International Copper Study Group, 2017; Statistica, 2018). Copper production in Asia has grown significantly in the past decade, particularly since the ramp-up of Wanbao in Myanmar. There used to be numerous small copper SX plants in China (Schlesinger, King, Sole, & Davenport, 2011), although most of these have now shut down and Chinese production is lower than it was five years ago. The most important trend, however, is the rise of Chinese-owned mining companies, particularly in Central Africa, but also around the world more generally.