News & Media

PKU Pioneer's VPSA Oxygen Unit for Hydrometallurgical Copper Smelting Successfully Started up in Africa



On September 20, 2023, the Lonshi mining, processing and smelting integrated project (Congo Lonshi Copper Project) built by JCHX Mining Management Co., Ltd. in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in Africa was successfully completed and formally put into production. All the units involved held a grand commissioning ceremony in the electrowinning workshop of the project.

The project simultaneously mines sulfide ore and mixed ore, with a processing scale of 1.5 million tons/year of raw ore, and adopts hydrometallurgical smelting systems to manufacture standard copper cathodes. PKU Pioneer, as a supplier of VPSA oxygen generation technology and complete sets of equipment, provides a stable oxygen source for the calcination of copper oxide from this project's copper sulfide raw ore. In Congo (DRC), PKU Pioneer witnessed the first batch of copper cathode from the production line together with the customer.

Up to November 9, the Lonshi Copper Mine Project in DRC has been operating stably for just 50 days, when PKU Pioneer received good news from the project site - since its commissioning, the 4130/82 VPSA oxygen plant built by Pioneer has been running smoothly with all the indexes in a stable state. Copper products on site are being shipped out orderly, and the user continues to achieve satisfactory results. According to the production plan, the copper mine is expected to reach production by the end of 2024, with an annual output of about 40,000 tons of copper metal.

Located only 3 km from the Zambian border, Lonshi copper mine is in the world-class DRC-Zambia copper mining belt, which is a resourceful copper mining area with huge reserves. The copper mine was open-pit mined in 2001 with no processing plant on site, and the high-grade oxide ore mined was transported to the hydrosmelting plant in Bwana Mkubwa, Zambia for processing. It has been under maintenance since the cessation in 2008. The unexploited is high-sulfur copper mine. After completing the acquisition of the mining assets in April 2021, JCHX established Sabwe Mining SARL and set up a hydrometallurgical copper production line, in which the raw copper sulphide ores are calcined to copper oxide, then leach the copper sulphate solution, and finally the concentrated copper sulfate is electrolyzed to obtain cathode copper.

Hydrometallurgical copper smelting equipment is simpler as it's operated near the mine with lower production costs. Moreover, no sulfuric acid or SO2 pollutants are generated. Although it accounts for only about 10%-20% of copper manufacturing in China, with the gradual depletion of ores, increasing utilization of oxidized ores, low-grade refractory ores and polymetallic complex copper ore, it will be an effective way to process the raw materials judging from the trends in resources use in the future.

The mainstream copper manufacturing process in China is pyrometallurgical copper smelting. Different from the oxygen supply for hydrometallurgical copper smelting of Lonshi Project in DRC, PKU Pioneer's VPSA oxygen generation technology is also applied to oxygen-rich side-blowing, bottom-blowing and other processes of non-ferrous metal smelting, such as copper, lead, zinc, nickel, etc. PKU Pioneer has built more than 80 VPSA oxygen units for over 60 large non-ferrous metal smelters, and also exported to many countries in Asia and Africa, helping the non-ferrous metallurgical industry realize high-efficiency and low-cost oxygen consumption.