Improving Base Metal Electrowinning
Project No. :P705C Status :Management
Commenced : 01 Nov 2013 AMIRA : Mr Terry F Braden
Value : USD $1,665,000.00 Duration : 3.75 years

The P705C project was designed to address the key technology improvement needs of the copper, zinc and nickel electro-winning operations around the globe and to deliver outcomes that should improve operations using a collaborative multinational research team. The project contains four modules; Anode Processes; Cathode Processes; Current Distribution; and Technology Transfer. P705C involves four research providers from four countries on three continents. This will help ensure local expertise is maintained and train future engineers and technologists in electro-winning technology. The project is a highly focused three-year project with the goals of reducing energy consumption, improving capital utilization, reducing acid mist and troubleshooting assistance. These goals will be achieved through the delivery of fundamental knowledge, prototypes, an empirical energy consumption model and operator training. For FY2014-15 Annual Report below PROJECT SUMMARY: AMIRA P705C is a 45 month research project that commenced in November 2013 and is focussed purely on electrowinning as metal electrowinning is a critically important process in the production of high purity zinc, copper, manganese, nickel and cobalt from primary sources. As background, the tankhouse capital costs can represent 20-40% of the total capital costs of a leach-EW operation,. Furthermore, the electrical power needed for electrowinning can constitute 25% of the total energy cost of producing copper and is also a significant fraction for zinc metal production costs. The project is supported by Freeport McMoRan, Votorantim Metais, MMG, Teck Metals, Anglo American, Industrie de Nora and RSR Technologies and is delivering outcomes to it its sponsors from world leading research teams on 3 continents that: reduce process energy consumption improve capital utilisation reduce acid mist and thus improve worker health and safety, and delivering training and up to date transferring knowledge to operating sites. HIGHLIGHTS/DELIVERABLES/VALUE ADDITIONS: The P705 series of projects has been world leader in electrowinning research and innovation now for >10 years and in this period has delivered significant understanding and innovations that has allowed the project sponsors to continually improve their operations, costs and efficiency of their facilities. Some highlights include: Improved understanding of the major factors governing the rates of corrosion of lead-based alloys as anodes in the electrowinning of copper, zinc and nickel. Identification of the effects of periodic current interruptions on the corrosion of lead alloy anodes. Practical and fundamental information on the role of cobalt in minimizing corrosion of anodes in the electrowinning of copper. An extensive review of acid mist generation, measurement and health aspects. Important insights into the mechanisms of incorporation of lead and sulfur impurities in copper and zinc cathodes. Identification of the lead species responsible for contamination of copper cathodes. Development of a simple, convenient instrument for the rapid measurement of current efficiency during the electrowinning of zinc. The modelling of the growth of metal deposits to facilitate optimization of cell performance in terms of tendency to short-circuits, surface quality, power consumption, and current efficiency as a function of operating parameters. Successful development of methods for the simulation of the distribution of current between electrodes within cells in typical tankhouses. AMIRA P705C has continued to deliver outcomes during the course of the project and while the project is only a third the way through its planned programme has already delivered site and industry workshops on 2 different continents and on-line webinars for its sponsors in areas affecting their sites' costs, efficiencies and operator health and safety. Very recent project outcomes are already showing benefits in anode lifetimes at sponsor sites with the resultant costs savings flowing through. A new initiative commenced in P705C is the "Dr Electrowinning" on-line troubleshooting guide that will be accessible to sponsors on laptops and mobile phones to assist operators and engineers to problem solve issues in their tankhouses. The framework for this initiative, with a number of decision trees, was unveiled to sponsors recently and its implementation is now widely anticipated. As P705C progresses the expectation is that significant efficiency, cost and quality gains will be realised as the information learned globally will be available immediately at all sites to speed up the return to steady operations from process upset conditions.

Sponsors

  • Anglo Operations Limited
  • Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.
  • Industrie De Nora S.p.a.
  • MMG Limited
  • RSR Technologies Inc
  • Teck Metals Ltd
  • Votorantim Metais

Research Providers

  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG)
  • Murdoch University
  • University of Utah