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Copper processing equipment

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Copper Processing and Refining

Depending on the ore type two different ways in processing the copper ore are encountered in the Escondida open pit. The oxide ores are heap leached and the sulphuric acid dissolves the copper. In the so called Planta de óxido copper cathodes are produced using the hydrometallurgical SX/EW-process. During the solvent extraction stage the copper bearing solution is cleaned and enriched. The pregnant solution contains on average 40 g/l of copper and 0.18 g/l of arsenic. The last stage is the electrolysis.


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The sulphide ore is processed by means of flotation to copper concentrate containing about 36 % copper. This process has a recovery rate of 85 %. The daily throughput of the processing plant is a maximum of 230,000 t/d. The grain size of the ore after passing the autogenous (Figure 5) and semi autogenous ball mills is less than 100 µm. The flotation process in the rougher and cleaner stages is taking place in Wemco column cells with a volume of 194 m³. The fines are deposited in waste ponds and the water is being recovered to be reused in the process. To minimize the evaporation of the resource “water”, sun reflecting, hexagonal dipyramidal plastic balls are covering the surface of the ponds.