Management of Copper Solvent Extraction Plants Running At Reduced Throughput

Additonal authors: Zhou, Y.. 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

Mitshabu, G.

Many copper processing flowsheets in the Democratic Republic of Congo include the leaching of oxide ores containing copper and cobalt, copper solvent extraction, copper electrowinning, and precipitation of cobalt salt. Recently, cobalt price gained momentum, driven mostly by the fast-growing electric vehicles battery market. The ore blending scenarios tend to prioritise high cobalt grade ore, whatever the content of copper and other impurities. Therefore, many copper solvent extraction circuits are running below design capacity. The variability of feed induces a variability of the leach solution with respect to copper, manganese, and silica contents. It is thus important to adjust hydrodynamic and metallurgical parameters of the solvent extraction plant to optimise metallurgical performance, production cost, and the quality of the copper electrolyte. This paper presents some results on how solvent extraction plant parameters have been managed in two solvent extraction plants running with lower than designed copper input. INTRODUCTION Referring to a report of the chamber of commerce of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the online publication Agence Ecofin (2019) indicated that the DRC ranks in the fifth position of the world top copper producing countries with over 1.2 million tons produced in 2018. The same year, 66% of the world’s cobalt was produced in the DRC at over 106,000 tons. If the political situation remained stable and the new tax regime introduced in 2018 did not deter private investors, copper production could reach 1.4 million tons/a in 2020 as pointed out in (2019). Forecast figures for DRC cobalt production vary widely depending on analysts. The DRC online magazine Actualité.cd (2018) referring to a ministerial source forecasts over 141,000 t cobalt/a for 2020. The reality will depend on many factors, including the selling price, the supply compared to the demand, and finally the reaction of investors to the new DRC tax regime. The growing electric vehicle batteries market has been the major key driver of the price of cobalt. The five years historical cobalt price graph in figure 1 from (2019) shows that the price of cobalt peaked at over 40 USD/lb in the first quarter of 2018. Cited by the online Magazine Creamer Media, Smith (2019) has indicated that the long-term demand of cobalt will likely remain strong.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019