Investing in technology for the non-ferrous industry

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 816, 1980

PHILIP M.J. GRAY, Consulting Metallurgist, London, England

The real cost of conversion from ore to semi-fabricated non-ferrous metals has been increasing for many years. Consumer resistance and improved knowledge and techniques now available justify investment in revolutionary as well as evolutionary methods of extraction. Metallurgical factors in current practice which preordain high production costs are identified as: smelters' demand for clean minerals, use of processes with low intensity of working per unit of reactor volume, use of low-velocity reactions, use of long reactor retention times relative to the speed of reactions, dilution of values in solution and commitment to electric power as a source of energy.Six new types of flowsheet are proposed for processing from ore to metal, composed of steps which are economic to construct and maintain and making maximum direct use of fossil fuel and the energy content of minerals. The basic knowledge and technology for developing these flowsheets exists. It is very tentatively suggested that these routes might reduce the capital and production cost for conversion of ore to metal by 30-50%.
Keywords: Investments, Technology, Metallurgy, Non-ferrous metallurgy, Research, Cost increases, Extractive metallurgy, Leaching, Smelting, Refining, Volatilization, Thermal decomposition, Anodic dissolution, Flowsheet design.