First Quantum contracts with MECS to cut emissions

Photo: Operations at Kansanshi
Photo: Operations at Kansanshi
First Quantum Minerals Ltd has contracted with MECS, a subsidiary of Elessent Clean Technologies for the Kansanshi Smelter Expansion at its mine in Zambia

Global copper company First Quantum Minerals Ltd (First Quantum) has contracted with MECS, a subsidiary of Elessent Clean Technologies for the Kansanshi Smelter Expansion at its Kansanshi Mine, Zambia.

From its two open pits, the Kansanshi copper-gold mine near Solwezi, in the North Western Province of Zambia, produces more copper than any other mine in Africa. The mine employs more than 13,000 people, primarily Zambian-nationals, and uses state-of-the-art technology to extract copper and gold from three different ore types, with world-class efficiency.

Optimising copper value whilst reducing emissions

The Kansanshi copper smelter, commissioned in the first half of 2015, has enabled First Quantum to optimise the value of the copper it produces in Zambia, and created a further 700 specialist jobs. It has a nominal capacity of 1.2m tonnes per annum (tpa) of concentrate to produce more than 300,000 tpa of blister copper.

The smelter efficiently traps 100% of sulphur dioxide by-product and converts it into sulphuric acid. This recycling produces more than 1m tpa of sulphuric acid, reducing reliance on imported acid for use in the treatment of oxide copper ores. Acid produced by the smelter is neutralised in the leaching circuit.

However the scope of the contract with MECS will include a redesign of the existing sulphur-burning sulphuric acid plant into a copper smelter off-gas recovery sulphuric acid plant. This transition will enable First Quantum to reduce emissions from the existing smelter, increase production at the mine, and supply more copper to the global market which will enable the adoption of greener technologies.

“The expansion of the Kansanshi Mine and transition to a smelter off-gas recovery sulphuric acid plant is an integral step to the extended life of the mining operation. It was important for Kansanshi and First Quantum to embark on this expansion by using environmentally sound practices, and MECS is honoured to play a part in this project. The MECS technology, products and equipment used in the plant’s design are world-class and will ensure their commitment to sustainability and social responsibility are met,” said Brian Blair, MECS Global Licensing Manager at Elessent.

The MECS sulphuric acid design for First Quantum incorporates state-of-the-art products and technologies, such as MECS catalyst for low emissions and high conversion, Brink mist eliminators for superior mist elimination and ZeCor alloy towers, ZeCor pump tank and UniFlo acid distributor technology for operational reliability and efficiency. The sulphuric acid plant conversion will also facilitate increased capacity for First Quantum to better serve their clients, as well as benefit the region by contributing to a more competitive and cleaner global supply chain of copper and gold.

“Supporting the Kansanshi Smelter Expansion with First Quantum and the Kansanshi Mine has been an exciting opportunity. Not only is MECS helping to extend the life of the mine and optimise operations, but we are also in a unique position to help make a tremendously positive impact on the environment by helping reduce emissions,” said Elessent's CEO Eli Ben-Shoshan. Startup of the Smelter Expansion is expected in 2025.

The MECS sulphuric acid technology has been in use for nearly a century in the phosphate fertiliser, non-ferrous metals (leaching & smelting), oil refining and general chemical industries. MECS technologies feature breakthrough solutions, many of which have revolutionised the performance, quality and cost-effectiveness of customer operations. They include MECS heat recovery systems (HRS), MECS SolvR regenerative SO2 scrubbing and MECS MAX3 sulphuric acid production technology.

Integrated into these MECS technologies are proven speciality products such as catalysts, Brink mist eliminators, DynaWave scrubbers, ZeCor corrosion resistant alloy products, and acid coolers all of which are specifically designed for the most demanding operating environments. Marketed by Elessent Clean Technologies, the MECS technology is the world-leading sulphuric acid production technology with more than 1,000 sulphuric acid plant licences and projects.

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