RECOPPs aims to transition the environmentally and economically sustainable recovery of added- value raw materials Bismuth (Bi) and Antimony (Sb) and removal of Arsenic (As) from the residues and by-products generated during the pyrometallurgical production of Copper (Cu) to a more relevant setting (from lab to pilot scale).

RECOPPs has been funded by EIT Raw Materials Horizon Europe


Background

Antimony and Bismuth are listed as critical raw materials for the European Union (EU) due to the risk of supply shortage and their impacts on the economy are higher than those of most of other raw materials. The end-of-life recycling input rate of Bi is between 1% and 2%, while the end-of-life recycling input rate of Sb is 28%, but yet, it is and it will not be sufficient to cover the increasing demand of these elements in the EU.

Parallel to this reality, the Copper smelter industry, that uses Cu ore concentrates, with the focus on obtaining a high Cu quality (99.9%), has evidenced the need to maintain both Sb and Bi concentrations below a specific level; the reason being that:

  • Bismuth and Antimony are related to the floating sludge formation.
  • An over concentration of As in the electrolyte can have adverse effects by the formation an precipitation of Sb and Bi arsenates.

This would result in an alteration of the Cu cathode quality and in the efficiency of the Cu primary production process.

These issues led us to focus on secondary sources of Sb and Bi, such as the effluents, residues and by-products generated during the pyrometallurgical based-route of Cu production, to meet the demand of the supply of these added value raw materials for the EU and at the same time, solve industrial related problems.

After identifying this problematic, we initiated an investigation that led us to RECOPPs, which started in 2018 after we conveyed a study of the Atlantic Copper-Huelva Smelter Flowsheet.



Identification of residues and solid by-products generated during the pyrometallurgical process of Cu primary production


Sampling campaign at the Atlantic Copper facilities in 2018 during routine operating conditions


Characterization inventory, at IDÆA-CSIC, in terms of composition, properties, and hazardous contaminants of residues and by-products

This initial research led us to create a proposal, based on the development of a recovery protocol of Bi and Sb and stabilization of As from the residues, effluents and by-products generated during the pyrometallurgical primary production of Cu.


Action Plan

The development of recovery protocols of Bismuth (Bi) and Antimony (Sb) and stabilization of Arsenic (As) from the residues, effluents and byproducts generated during the pyrometallurgical primary production of Cu consists of 2 phases:

TRL of 5

Phase 1

Deliver proof of an environmentally and economically sustainable recovery process of added-value raw materials Bi and Sb and removal of As at a relevant Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 5.

TRL of 7

Phase 2

Claim the intellectual property of these recovery protocols to later transition them to a TRL of 7 to demonstrate its technological feasibility at such a relevant setting.

Goals

We are currently working on two separate protocols that recover both Bi and Sb form two different waste streams:

Eluate

Recovery protocol of Sb and Bi

ESP Converter Dust

Recovery protocol of Bi


Recovered elements

RECOPP will contribute in deeply to improve the access to raw materials for the EU. Raw materials demand, especially of Sb and Bi is expected to continue growing by 64% to 20301 as a consequence of the absence of those materials in the European ground or to economic and societal factors that negatively affect the exploration (estimation of resources and reserves) or the extraction (closure of existing mines and reluctance to open new mines, etc.)

Produced amount:

1177 tonnes/year

Approximate recovery:

130 tonnes/year

Produced amount:

134 tonnes/year

Approximate recovery:

100 tonnes/year

This data provides information only about the tonnes of these elements that could be recovered from the Atlantic Copper SLU facility in Huelva.

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