The visit began with a highly enjoyable networking evening in Hamburg’s harbour area, where around 25 MMTA and VDM members met for dinner and conversation, washed down with plenty of beer. The following morning, we had the pleasure of a presentation and guided plant tour of Aurubis’ Hamburg site which happened to coincide with the recent solar eclipse visible in Northern Europe, giving a slightly cold and eerie feel to the morning.
The world of Aurubis is not simply a copper story, although the company is one of the leading integrated copper groups. Not only do they produce and process copper from concentrates and scrap, serving a wide range of sectors such as electrical and mechanical engineering, telecommunications, the automotive and construction industries, as well as solar technology, Aurubis also extracts all other by-product elements contained in the raw materials. This includes the extraction of sulphuric acid and iron silicates, and also a wide range of precious and minor metals.
Aurubis deals with much of the periodic table during its complex processing. The company does not market all elements as end products, and the final destination depends very much on the marketability of the element. As can be seen from the table below, Aurubis is not just about copper, but copper is, of course, the primary product. Once the sulphuric acid and iron silicate are extracted from the production process, as well as the precious and other metals, the raw materials are processed into high-purity copper cathodes. These are then melted down and formed into continuous cast wire rod through a fascinating continuous casting and rolling process, as well as cast shapes. Around 30% of Aurubis’ copper production originates from copper scrap and other recycling materials, including electronic scrap, and this percentage is growing steadily.
The periodic table below categorises the elements into how they can be processed and/or used at Aurubis.
SOME KEY FACTS ABOUT COPPER & AURUBIS
10,000 years ago, ‘red gold’ – copper is already being used to make tools and utensils
6,300 employees of Aurubis in over 20 countries on 3 continents
1,140,000 tonnes of copper products produced annually by Aurubis
>370 million euro invested by the company in environmental protection measures since 2000
99.9% minimum copper content in Aurubis copper cathodes
1200 degrees C temperature in the flash smelter