Sustainable Development and the Primary Copper Industry: Past, Present and Future

Additonal authors: . 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

Parameswaran, K.

This paper builds on presentations made at the Conference of Metallurgists (COM) 2015, COM 2017 and Extraction 2018 and associated papers published in the respective conference proceedings. Based on the classic Brundtland Commission definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” the paper describes how metal mining can be compatible with sustainable development and how sustainability considerations have been applied in the primary copper industry, using several examples of sustainable mining practices from ASARCO LLC operations. Finally, the paper discusses how these considerations might be used in the future by discussing the need for developing a sustainable development strategy and how this strategy can be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. INTRODUCTION The primary copper industry comprises: mining (also referred to as “extraction”); mineral processing (also referred to as “beneficiation, “milling” or “concentration,”) which includes leaching, solvent extraction (SX), crushing, grinding, froth and flotation operations; and metallurgical processing which includes smelting and converting; refining, which includes fire-refining or anode refining and electro-refining; and electrowinning (EW). There are two routes for producing refined copper: hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical. The hydrometallurgical route comprises mining (open-pit and underground), mineral processing (crushing and grinding — for heap leaching only; leaching and SX) and metallurgical processing (EW). The pyrometallurgical route involves mining, mineral processing (crushing, grinding and froth flotation) and metallurgical processing (smelting, fire refining and electro- refining). The primary copper industry is capital, water, resource and energy intensive with the potential for significant environmental impacts, if the environmental aspects are not properly managed. ASARCO LLC (Asarco) was organized in 1899 as the American Smelting And Refining Company. Originally a consolidation of several lead-silver smelting companies, it evolved over the years into an integrated producer of primary non-ferrous metals, including copper, lead and zinc and associated co-products. Grupo México, S.A.B. de C.V (Grupo México) acquired Asarco in 1999. Today, Asarco is a vertically integrated producer of primary refined copper and associated co-products such as gold, silver, selenium and tellurium. Asarco operates three open-pit mines and mills, two leach, SX-EW plants, a copper smelter in Arizona and a copper electrolytic refinery in Texas.
Keywords: Copper 2019, COM2019