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RCC plans to launch production of cathode copper at Mikheevskiy Processing Plant

45 billion rubles are expected to be invested in the project

The Russian Copper Company (RCC) plans to develop an autoclave unit to produce cathode copper at the Mikheevskiy Processing Plant. This was announced by the President of RCC, Vsevolod Levin, on July 10 at the company’s stand at the International Industrial Trade Fair INNOPROM 2018.
Vsevolod Levin, President of RCC commented: “In 2014, we commenced operations at the Mikheevskiy Processing Plant with a capacity of 18 million tonnes of ore per year. In 2017, this capacity was increased to 27 million tonnes of ore. With the increase in processing volumes, the idea arose of using copper concentrate to produce cathode copper in order to optimize the transport expenses on delivering raw materials to consumers and give the market a product with a higher added value.”
According to Vsevolod Levin, the new facility will be capable of producing 100,000 tonnes of copper cathodes every year, approximately 25,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate (a product used in manufacturing electric car batteries that is becoming increasingly in demand) and up to 350 tonnes of cobalt in commercial salt.
The raw material for the autoclave complex will be copper concentrate from the Mikheevskiy Processing Plant ¬– up to 500,000 tonnes per year, and also up to 750,000 tonnes of oxidized nickel ore from the Kulikovskiy group of deposits (Chelyabinsk Region), the license for which is held by RCC. Investments in the project are estimated at 45 billion rubles. The new unit will create an additional 1000 high-tech jobs.

Advantages of the project

The advantage with autoclave production is that there are no emissions of metallurgical gases. The fully closed technological cycle means that the technological process does not interact with the environment.
Using autoclave technology directly next to production facilities at the Mikheevskiy Processing Plant will significantly reduce the duration of the production cycle. After the ore is received at the plant’s storage facilities, it will take approximately 8 days to produce cathode copper – this is approximately 2-3 times faster than traditional production chains in Russia. In addition, with autoclave production the recovery rate of the copper is up to 98.5%. This can be compared with pyrometallurgical production, where the figure is 94-96%.
Gold mining companies were the first to use autoclave technologies on an industrial scale in the 1950s-1960s. The use of autoclave technology to process copper ores and concentrates on a test industrial and industrial scale began in the 1980s in Australia and the US. A large-scale project is currently being implemented in Arizona (US). The use of autoclave technology to produce oxidized nickel ores and copper concentrates at the Mikheevskiy Processing Plant in the planned volumes will be the first experience of its kind in the world.

About autoclave production

Autoclaves are large airtight vessels that are able to allow large volumes of copper concentrate and oxidized ore to pass through them at a rapid rate. To extract the useful component from the raw material, autoclaves operate at an increased temperature and pressure – at a temperature of 200-260 degrees Celsius and a pressure of more than 20 bar. Under these conditions, the raw material in the autoclave is converted into a copper-containing solution. In the next stages of production it is used as a basis for producing an electrolyte enriched with copper. Under the influence of electric current and in special electrolytic baths, copper from the electrolyte is recovered in the form of metal plates – cathodes containing 99.99% copper.

The Russian Copper Company is a diversified vertically integrated holding uniting more than 30 facilities. The production assets of the RCC Group are located in Chelyabinsk Region, Sverdlovsk Region, Orenburg Region, Novgorod Region, and also the Republic of Kazakhstan. RCC’s mining and metallurgical assets encompass the full production cycle – from mining and processing of ore to production and sales of copper concentrate, copper cathodes and copper rods, and also zinc concentrate, and refined gold and silver. RCC’s production facilities are able to produce more than 220,000 tons of copper cathodes and 235,000 tons of copper rods per year. Since 2004, RCC has invested approximately 3.5 billion US dollars in Russia, and approximately 885 million US dollars in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

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