Trends and Treatment of Arsenic in Copper Mining
Additonal authors: Parra, Nelson. 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
Arsenic is an unresolved problem in the mining industry considering the fact that most of the new copper deposits have high arsenic contents; stricter environmental restrictions for handling, transporting and processing complex materials are expected and stable abatement of arsenic is not extensively applied.
In 2018 Chile produced 24.5% of the total copper from concentrates and in the future copper production in Chile is expected to increase, mainly associated with production of concentrates that will also contain more arsenic.
China has set an import benchmark of maximum 0.5% for arsenic content in copper concentrates and this value is expected to be more restrictive in the future. On the first day of 2018 China banned the importation of scrap. Blending practice has been a business option, but it is not sustainable in the future, as “normal” copper concentrates become less and less clean.
By the end of 2018, Chile formulated new regulations, increasing the capture of SO2 and arsenic to 95%. In order to comply with these regulations Chilean smelters had to make large invest large amounts of money. Disposing of arsenic as a stable residue is a pending issue. EcoMetales is a 100% subsidiary of Codelco and provides the mining industry with environmental solutions. It has a plant near Calama in Chile that treats flue dust from smelters, refinery effluents and acid solutions from acid plants.
EcoMetales is fully committed to contributing to the solution to the arsenic problem. Currently we are developing four main projects: 1) Concentrates treatment. A PLCC project considering the treatment of 200 ktpy of copper concentrates with arsenic from the northern district of Codelco; 2) EPAS DET project considering the treatment of 700 m3/d of weak acid solution with arsenic from the of El Teniente devision of the Codelco acid plant; 3) Borras project, considering the recovery of valuable metals (Cu, Ag, Ge, Pb) from the flue dust leaching plant; 4) Tailings project, considering the recovery of metal values from tailings.
The purpose of this work is to present the trends and treatment processes for arsenic handling in the copper mining industry with a focus on the scorodite process.
Between 2000 and 2015 the global copper concentrates production has grown from approximately eleven to fifteen million metric tons per year. Chile produced 26.5% of the total copper from concentrates and in the future copper production in Chile is expected to increase, mainly as a result of the production of concentrates (Figure 1)
Copper 2019, COM2019