Root-Cause Analysis of the Lacy Copper Phenomenon

Additonal authors: Bravo, T.. 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

Almansa, A. R.

Lacy copper has been an on-going concern at Atlantic Copper for at least 10 years and was first reported to Glencore Technology in mid-2010. Over the past 12 years, many of the plates were replaced due to age and general deterioration however; plate passivation and lacy copper issues have persisted. After analyzing all the possible causes of this phenomena, it was found that the problem is caused by a degradation of stainless steel as a consequence of the deposition of Sb oxides. These deposits act as passivating agents of stainless steel, which reduces the density of copper nuclei, causing defective copper deposit, with low thickness and ductility. After doing several tests for reducing/removing the phenomena, the over-riding factor was found to be the anode-cathode overlap. An adequate overlap eliminates the problem of "lacy copper". This was verified during an eight month trial with anodes extended 2.5cm in length. Longer anode not only avoids the appearance of lacy copper, but also recovers cathodes that already have lacy copper. On the other hand polishing of plates only gives rise to a temporary solution that requires on-going polishing, to avoid the re-appearance of lacy copper. INTRODUCTION The electrolytic copper refinery of Atlantic Copper in Huelva (Spain) was commissioned in 1970 with an initial capacity of 40,000 t of cathodes per year. In 1975 the copper refinery was expanded to 108,000 t/year. From 1994 to 1996, a new expansion together with the implementation of ISA permanent cathode technology led to a capacity of 215,000 t/y. Since 1995, a progressive increase in the current density up to 350 A/m2 has been accomplished, which together with an increase in the number of cells from 1,120 to 1,204, has led to the present cathode production capacity of 290,000 t/y A lack of copper deposition in the lower part of the steel permanent cathodes was first reported in 2010. This phenomenon is known as “Lacy copper” because of the appearance of the copper deposit as it can be seen in Figure 1. The occurrence of this phenomena was relatively low and was assumed to be originated by an excessive anode scrapping. Nevertheless, in December 2015 Lacy Copper was observed in a significant amount of copper cathodes giving rise to the following issues: Increased tramp copper – housekeeping and maintenance problems Poor appearance of cathode deposit and untidy looking bundles
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019