Lab Canada

Cleaner, greener and more profitable process for refining copper

Vancouver, BC – A researcher at the University of British Columbia, Dr David Dixon, has invented an environmentally friendly and cheaper way to produce high quality copper from low-grade concentrates, thus expanding potential copper reserves.

The university has granted Bateman Engineering exclusive rights to market the new technology in 20 copper-producing countries. A number of international mining companies have requested detailed feasibility studies in anticipation of building full-scale Galvanox plants, and licensing negotiations are underway.

Dr Dixons co-inventor is UBC PhD recipient Alain Tshilombo. Their patented Galvanox copper-leaching process offers alternatives to the traditional method of smelting and other hydrometallurgical technologies.

The two found that pyrite, when used as a galvanic catalyst, is able to break down the mineral chalcopyrite – the major source of copper. Pyrite facilitates the selective oxidation of chalcopyrite rapidly and completely at temperatures below the boiling point of water.

This approach differs from other hydrometallurgical processes, all of which rely on some combination of high temperature, very fine or ultrafine grinding, and corrosive chemicals such as chloride to get the job done, says Dr Dixon, an associate professor at the department. of materials engineering.

Galvanox will enable copper producers to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide gas emissions, eliminate the cost of transportation to the smelter and treat certain copper ores that smelters cannot.

Producers can expect virtually complete copper recovery – 98% or more – despite the mild process conditions, he says.