OPERATIONS

BASF partners with hydroGEOPHYSICS on copper recovery

The duo plans to bolster recovery rates of the red metal

Increasing recovery rates from existing mines will help alleviate some of the supply pressure the copper industry is experiencing. Photo: hydroGEOPHYSICS

Increasing recovery rates from existing mines will help alleviate some of the supply pressure the copper industry is experiencing. Photo: hydroGEOPHYSICS

International chemical manufacturer BASF and specialised recovery services provider hydroGEOPHYSICS (HGI) have formed an exclusive partnership to enhance copper extraction in the mining sector.

The pair seek to improve copper extraction by employing HGI's geophysical methods to pinpoint low-recovery areas within the heap. Once identified, a deep well injection program utilising BASF's LixTRA leach aid will be deployed to enhance copper extraction rates.

Increasing recovery rates from existing mines will help alleviate some of the supply pressure the copper industry is experiencing due to the rising demand for copper from traditional and green energy sectors.

The statement notes that challenges like declining ore grades, increased costs, and ESG responsibilities have constrained medium to long-term mine supply, leading to a significant projected supply deficit. Innovative extraction methods like the one BASF and HGI are working on could help satiate some of the market demand and allow miners to get the most out of existing operations.

The heap leach process, where low-grade ores are stacked and treated with a lixiviant (typically acid) to dissolve copper, presents a cost-effective way for copper extraction. However, uneven heap distribution often causes ore compaction and inadequate lixiviant penetration, leading to less-than-optimal metal recovery.

To address this challenge, HGI utilises advanced geophysical methods to analyse heap structures, facilitating the setup, management, and oversight of specific lixiviant injection points. Integration of BASF's LixTRA leach aid enhances ore-lixiviant interaction, resulting in improved copper dissolution and enhanced metal extraction.

"Enhancing copper recovery in a sustainable and safe manner is the main focus for most of the mines HGI works with. There is a growing and continuous need for copper, especially within the green economy,' said Brian Cubbage, executive vice president of operations at HGI. "Leveraging HGI's expertise in locating and enhancing copper recovery in underperforming areas in heap leach pads, with applying BASF's LixTRA reagent through our injection programs, has provided a significant boost in the efficiency of copper recovery."

Preliminary findings during the test phase indicate a 20% uptick in copper retrieval. According to the companies, the positive results prompted an expanded assessment to gauge the advantages on a broader scale.

"Technological advancements are essential if the industry is to meet the projected copper demand going forward. Using HGI's expertise to identify areas of poor heap leach performance and then targeting these areas through deep well technology and BASF's LixTRA reagent is a great example of how partnerships can drive sustainable process improvements in the mining industry," said Caren Hoffman, vice president of mining solutions at BASF.

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