The use of new technology and the recent increase in copper prices has changed how miners are extracting copper from waste rock dumps. The price of the red metal surged as global stimulus measures prompted an increase in demand. Long-term projections show that the increase in consumption, which is driven by the green-energy transition, will surpass supply in the near future.
A recent study reported by CRU Group has discovered that more than 40 million tons of copper are lying in waste dumps in different mines around the world. The red metal is considered to be challenging to economically extract through the use of standard mining methods.
Bloomberg reported that the copper was worth more than $2 trillion at current copper prices. It is estimated that more than 217 billion cubic meters of tailings are being stored across the globe, with the red metal making up about 45% of the material stored around the world.
Goldman Sachs Group and the world’s top copper trader Trafigura Group note that the price of copper may go up to $15,000 per ton in the near future because there’s little development of new copper mines going on. Similarly, Natural Resources Canada estimates that there’s almost $10 billion in total metal value in gold mining waste sitting idle in Canada.
Jetti Resources, a start-up firm based in Colorado, is working towards addressing the issue on the annual supply deficits of copper, which are expected to begin in 2025. The Natural Resources Clean Growth Program by the Canadian government recently granted Jetti Resources the finances needed to advance research and encourage projects that use its energy-efficient process to extract the red metal, tailings or waste mining materials from lower- and regular-grade ores.
Conventional leaching methods, which are often used to extract the metal, work by dissolving the substance to form a solution of copper sulfate. While these methods are effective, they cause a film to form over the copper in ores, which hinders it from being extracted. Jetti Resources has designed a catalyst that can extract copper from low-grade clalcopyrite ores. This method disrupts the sulfur metal bond of copper.
Jetti Resources notes that its new technique can be used in existing plants and can grow production by anywhere between 20% and 100%. However, this is dependent on the type of operation is being followed in each plant.
Jetti installed its first commercial plant in 2020 at a mine managed by Capstone Mining Corp. (OTC: CSFFF) (TSX: CS). Capstone states that it expects to produce more than 350 million pounds of copper by processing millions of tons of waste rock in the next 20 years.
It remains to be seen how this novel extraction method compares with the existing approaches known to mining industry actors such as Asia Broadband Inc. (OTC: AABB).
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