Innovative technology to bring business and environmental benefits to mining facility

Production capacity at a mine in Portugal has been increased through the SOMINCOR project, thanks to the use of a new process to handle and store waste.

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The aim of the SOMINCOR project was to increase the production of zinc and copper while allowing for the new mining of lead at the Neves Corvo facility. The scheme was split into two sub-projects: one focused on increasing the productive capacity of the zinc wash system and the production of lead and silver concentrates; the other sought to create waste deposits in paste form by developing a pulp production plant. The latter innovation means that it is possible to store waste in nearby landfills without increasing their height or parameters, thereby minimising any environmental impact.

Boosting economic viability

The project made it possible to expand the treatment capacity of zinc ore to an economically viable level.

Expansion of the zinc wash system called for the purchasing of equipment, including a primary stone crusher, cyclones and floating cells. Various civil, engineering and electrical works were undertaken as part of the installation process.

The paste production sub-project focused on developing an alternative storage method, whereby tailing pulp was thickened in the SOMNICOR wash system before being placed in landfill at the Cerro do Lobo Tailing Facility. Tailings are the waste left over from separating ore from rock and earth.

The product obtained from the thickening process is a paste which is denser than the original pulp. It has a consistency which allows it to be deposited on land, rather than in lagoons. Underwater storage capacity at this site would have run out before the end of the mine’s working life so finding a way of storing waste over-ground became a key priority. The thickened paste is stored within cells created by building walls and beams from mine debris. Meanwhile, the water produced by the pulping process can be sent back to the mine to be re-used in various industrial processes.

Commercial benefits

This investment was considered as essential for the continuing viability of the mine, bearing in mind the limited space for the deposit of waste in lagoons. About 40 jobs were created as a direct result of implementing the project. Work was overseen by the Lundin Mining Corporation Group, which employs more than 800 people in Portugal.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “SOMINCOR – Expansion of production capacity at Neves Corvo” is EUR 76 891 130, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 14 908 426 from the Operational Programme “Thematic Factors of Competitiveness” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period under the priority "Innovation and Renewal of the Business Model and the Specialization Standard".

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