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Profitable copper production from low-grade waste ores

Mining Engineering , 2015, Vol. 67, No. 4, pp. 61-67

James, P.I.; Baker, M.R.


This paper examines new copper production from waste-grade ore using Blue Planet Strategies’ DEMET™ (Dynamic Electrode Mining Effluent Treatment) technology, which aims to bridge the practical weak pregnant leach solution (PLS) processing gap in heap leach-solvent extraction/electrowinning (SX/EW) operations by electrochemically removing metals from weak streams and generating product streams strengthened in target metals in a functional analog to SX. Weak PLS treatment was studied and used to estimate the economic and production impacts for a representative hypothetical brownfield copper heap leaching and DEMET-augmented SX/EW operation to utilize “waste ore.” Copper removal at 86% plating efficiency to below 0.1 g/L copper with power consumption of 0.55 kWh/lb copper and product strengths of over 10 g/L copper are presented. Modeling yielded approximately $2/lb total copper production and ≤ $1/lb treatment costs with an immediate operation gross margin increase of 12% for the augmented brownfield. Potential mine life extension with an average 38% gross margin on “waste ore” augmented production at copper values of $3.25/lb was also indicated.