As the intensity of environmental rules and regulation is increasing, more pressure of arsenic is being put on copper producers.
FREMONT, CA: Arsenic is one of the most toxic elements found in most of the minerals in copper mines. Many existing copper mines, as well as upcoming projects, have high arsenic content whose volume, which should be treated, will increase and intensify the environmental and financial risk to the producers.
Distinct processing methods produce different arsenic by-products. However, all of them need expensive handling and long-term storage, which put more pressure on operating costs, especially the reputation of copper miners and processors.
Arsenic is disposed of in various by-products and multiple concentrations throughout the beneficiation circuit. Every by-product needs special treatment and storage with cost impacts. For instance, it is necessary for Smelters to install dust treatment plants along with their by-products, which are stored in monitored pits on-site or ponds. Arsenictrioxide is a commercially saleable product which is complicated and costly to produce because of its low market value.
For this extra volume of complex concentrate, there is a requirement of more treatments globally. However, this will come along with trade-offs between opex and capex and environmental concerns. Presently, hydrometallurgy is the most environmentally friendly treatment. Besides, investments can be made into the technological development of these treatment services, as well as the management of waste from smelters and roasters.
Impact on the environment is the central tenet of mining, which makes waste facilities or any stored tailings to attract additional scrutiny. Incidents like leaks at the Potrerillos smelters report that Polish smelter arsenic emissions posses are beyond ten times the legal limit, which increases environmental hazards. In 1998, the failure of the Los Frailes tailings dam released approximately 9000 tonnes of arsenic into the environment.
It is likely of arsenic to become producers’ more considerable concern in the upcoming years. High arsenic miners and processors will do their maximum to invest in storage capacity and treatment, or risk being at competitive demerit in the upcoming few years.