Big payoffs for the Copper Smelter

The Copper Smelter metallurgy and operations teams have implemented a number of initiatives to reduce unplanned downtime related to the waste heat boiler.

During 2019 and 2020, there were three major Copper Smelter downtime events related to the ISASMELT ™ waste heat boiler, costing the business significantly. 

The Mount Isa Copper Smelter, including the ISAMELT™ beside the stack.

Process feed materials (concentrate, fluxes, coal) are fed into the ISASMELT ™ via a feed chute on the roof of the furnace. The material drops into a molten bath at the bottom of the furnace where the metallurgical reactions primarily occur.

“To combat these issues we implemented a number of actions, including using modified feed materials and additional aeration; and these actions have definitely paid off.”

Process feed materials are fed into the IsaSmelt™ furnace via a feed chute.
Additional oxygen was injected into the process via the Lance Port.

Some of the actions undertaken by the metallurgy and operations teams included:

  • sourcing a coarser coal, to reduce the risk of  the fine particle content becoming entrained in the off-gas
  • developing and reporting on tracking metrics, increasing the ability to act upon negative trends
  • tracking metrics to increase the ability to act on negative trends
  • undertaking manual gas sampling to dictate whether the addition of extra oxygen was required
  • implementing a lance port post-combustion system with the aim of facilitating oxygen injection.

“As a result of these actions there has been no unplanned downtime associated with the waste heat boiler in 2021,” Marc says.

The Copper Smelter produces 99.5% pure copper anode which is railed to our Townsville Copper Refinery for further refinement.
Some members of the Copper Smelter Operations team. Left to right: Devaprakash Narayanan, Shane Luck, Kevin Bocos.

“Furthermore, the boiler differential pressure, which is a proxy for build-up formation, has successfully ramped down in the past months.”

Mount Isa Mines Technical Services Manager, Martin Bakker, applauded both the metallurgy and operations teams for their efforts, with the actions taken clearly making a significant impact on operational performance.

The Copper Smelter Metallurgy team. Left to right: Ally McDonough, Andrew Adipuri, Anthony Hay, Marc Moutin, Luke Evans, George Koshi, Michael Carkeet, Chloe Webb, Ewan Truong.

“With any reoccurring issue, such as what we were experiencing with the waste heat boiler, it’s important to not only fix the breakdown, but look for ways to improve the process and prevent the issue from happening in the first place,” Martin says.

“At the Copper Smelter we foster a culture of continuous improvement and encourage our people to think outside the box, while striving for optimal performance.”