Atlantic Copper and Suez present project to optimise use of water resources in copper smelting and refining in Huelva (Spain)

The Atlantic Copper plant in Huelva was recently the setting for the presentation of progress in the RED SCOPE project, which seeks to achieve the maximum recovery of water used in the processes of the Huelva-based company.

The RED_SCOPE project (Recovery of Effluent Discharge for Sustainable Copper Processing in Europe) is funded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Raw Materials initiative. The project seeks to analyse the technical and economic feasibility of a new process to maximise the recovery of process water at a copper smelting plant. The project is led by Atlantic Copper, while SUEZ is responsible for technical coordination and, as such, is responsible for the definition and design of the process line. Suez is supported by the CETAQUA water technology centre and the Swedish Environmental Research institute (IVL), who are responsible for characterisation and study of the potential recovery of the waste generated in the new process.

An advanced filtration prototype has been designed as part of the project and this is complemented by different reverse osmosis technologies that enable the recovery of most of the water (around 90%).

This water is of sufficient quality for use as process water and it will be returned to the smelting plant, thereby reducing freshwater consumption and water footprint. The liquid stream that is not reused will be sent to an evaporator in order to obtain a dry waste in the form of salt crystals and the aim is to recover this waste.

The project kicked off in 2017 with prefeasibility studies and laboratory tests. In 2018, the pilot plant was designed, the different technologies were installed and pilot tests were carried out over five months. The results of these tests were presented at this recent event. The implementation study and final validation of the project are scheduled to take place in 2019.