Mopani completes smelter upgrade project
MOPANI Copper Mines has announced the completion of the US$500 million Mufulira smelter upgrade project, which is expected to stop the sulphur dioxide emissions that have affected the area for over 70 years.
The smelter would be capturing 97 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions in line with the recommended international standards by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In a statement released yesterday, Mopani Copper Mines management stated that the smelter had been completed 15 months ahead of schedule.
Mopani Copper Mines chief executive officer, Danny Callow, stated that the smelter was done in three phases to address the legacy issue of sulphur dioxide emissions which were at 100 per cent from 1937 to Glencore’s investment in 2000.
Callow stated that Mopani was committed to upgrading the smelter to comply with international standards just after the acquisition of the asset in 2000.
He stated that at the time of acquisition, the Mufulira smelter was emitting 100 per cent of its sulphur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and a decision was made to build a new smelter within the confines of the existing smelter, whilst increasing production and maintaining job stability, which were two key areas of government focus.
“One option we had involved closing the processing plant, which would have enabled us to complete the work earlier but would have resulted in around 900 job losses at the time, with a major impact on the local economy, which is heavily reliant on the operation. The second and more viable option was to keep the plant operational and upgrade the smelter in stages,” Callow stated.
Callow described the smelter upgrade project as one of the biggest environmental projects ever undertaken in Zambia.
He stated that the first phase of the project was completed in 2007, which involved replacing the existing electric furnace and construction of an acid plant at a cost of US$ 213m, enabling the capture of emissions of 50 per cent.
Callow stated that in the second phase, two new bigger anode furnaces and twin anode casting wheels were installed at a value of US$81million and were successfully commissioned in 2009.
“With the completion of phases one and two, the smelter capacity improved to about 625,000 tpa concentrate treatment from 420,000 tpa, whilst sulphur capture improved to 51 per cent. In the third and final phase which involved the installation of three larger converters, assorted gas handling equipment and a second acid plant, all costing US$206 million, was completed in March this year, 15 months ahead of schedule agreed with the Zambian government,” he stated.
Callow said the completion of the Mufulira smelter upgrade project would result in a greatly improved environment for the local community and Mopani employees.