Internal growth project
Future Complex Metallurgy
Creating more value
When meeting Jo Rogiers for the first time, two things are immediately noticeable: his firm handshake and his positive presence. After this first impression, it is obvious that the tall engineer with over 30 years of industry experience knows what he’s talking about – whether in Dutch, French, English, or German. Skills that are exceedingly valuable for the tasks that come his way.
The industry is looking for an answer
Normally, mines draw copper ores from the ground and then concentrate them into a defined mixture that they sell as a “standard concentrate” to smelters. Mine-specific ore deposits are increasingly presenting a challenge for operators because some concentrates exhibit higher volumes of additional materials that are more complex to treat. They don’t meet the standard anymore and are referred to as complex concentrates. The processing methods of many copper smelters worldwide aren’t designed to handle them. Operators thus have the problem that the concentrates, which are highly valuable in some cases, can’t be marketed at all or only with a great deal of effort.
An ideal solution for both partners
This is where Jo Rogiers comes in. Together with his team, he is implementing one of the biggest growth projects in Aurubis history: Future Complex Metallurgy, or FCM for short. The native Belgian is clearly proud of the in-house development at Aurubis. “With FCM, we will offer our mine and industry partners the possibility to leverage the value potential from complex input materials in the future,” he explains. At the same time, this differentiates Aurubis from its competitors. An ideal solution for both sides.
In that sense, the name FCM says it all. Thanks to an innovative metallurgical process, the company will process even more complex input materials in the future. 270,000 t more per year, to be precise. In addition to complex concentrates, these can also include recycling materials, e-scrap, intermediates from copper, zinc, and lead smelters, and metal-bearing slags and materials containing precious metals.
“Due to the increase in valuable complex input materials used, we will also significantly increase the output quantities of other metals. This supports our multi-metal approach,” Rogiers asserts. By fiscal year 2022/23, Aurubis plans to increase sales volumes of non-copper metals by 100 % compared to fiscal year 2016/17.
“This allows us to expand not only our raw material portfolio, but also our position in the raw material market,” Rogiers states confidently. Because Aurubis can only process the raw materials necessary for FCM to a limited extent in its existing facilities, the expert doesn’t see a risk of a cannibalization effect in the Group. FCM will therefore contribute to the strategic target of doubling the volume of directly supplied complex recycling raw materials in the Aurubis Group by 2022/23 compared to 2016/17.
“Due to the increase in valuable complex input materials used, we will also significantly increase the output quantities of other metals. This supports our multi-metal approach.”
The best of both worlds
The FCM facilities will be constructed at both the Hamburg (Germany) and Olen (Belgium) sites. For Rogiers, the selection of the sites connects the best of both worlds. In Hamburg, he says, the existing sampling division and wastewater treatment can be expanded and upgraded. For the pyrometallurgical aspect, the company will not only use existing facilities but also expand them in some cases, for instance by adding a bath smelting furnace. Furthermore, the Hamburg plant already has the necessary equipment to produce pure sulfuric acid and precious metals.
On the other hand, the employees in Olen have specialized knowledge about the hydrometallurgical aspect and better possibilities to integrate the process into the existing tankhouse. Rogiers looks forward to the more than 180 new colleagues overall, whom Aurubis will hire at both sites in the course of the project.
Aurubis is investing a total of about € 320 million in the planned facilities, about two-thirds in Hamburg and almost one-third in Olen. Once in operation, the facilities will contribute approximately € 80 million to the operating result (EBITDA) starting in 2020/21. Another benefit of FCM lies in the shorter throughput time for precious metals, which will eliminate production bottlenecks and reduce working capital. A large part of the investment is financed by these savings alone.
There’s still quite a lot of work for Rogiers and his team until the scheduled commissioning of the project in 2022/21. However, one thing stands out to him already: “A flagship project like FCM inspires people and brings them together. Regardless of the site where I hold meetings – in FCM, we all speak the same language.”
Facts and figures:
Future Complex Metallurgy project
in Hamburg and Olen
starting FY 2022/23
including complex concentrates,
recycling materials, and intermediate products