Turning copper to gold

Investment in its copper extraction process will give mining complex a new lease of life and secure hundreds of jobs.

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The Aljustrel mining complex in Alentejo, southern Portugal, is embarking on a major project to modernise its copper extraction and processing operations.

Opening up new galleries

The complex, operated by mining company Almina, employs 500 people in the extraction of ore and the production of copper, lead and zinc concentrates.

To improve its competitiveness, the company, with EU support, is modernising its infrastructure to boost extraction of copper ore. It will construct new galleries to expand access to the ore, and upgrade the plant’s processing operations, which convert the rock to a marketable product. These include facilities to wash the rock, treat and recycle water, and process waste material.

By adapting and modernising its operations, the company will be in a stronger position to transform and add value to the raw materials it extracts, while continuing to meet environmental standards. It will also allow earlier investments, made for its zinc production activities, to be made profitable.

Mining centre since pre-Roman times

The mining complex is located on the Iberian pyrite belt, a geological zone that stretches 250 km across southern Spain and Portugal, and consists of volcanic-sedimentary deposits formed 350 million years ago. The belt has a history of mining dating back to 800 B.C. – the village of Aljustrel was known to Romans as Metallum Vispascense - and the local workforce is steeped in the mining sector.

During the three years of the project, 100 jobs will be created. Long-term job creation will amount to 47 full-time posts, roughly half of which will be for highly skilled workers. The project is also expected to contribute indirectly to the creation of some 600 jobs, and it will safeguard 103 full-time posts that, in the absence of investment, would be lost.

Metals are extracted from the underground galleries by drilling and placing explosives in rock. The rock is crushed and brought to the surface, where it is ground and then treated to produce copper concentrate, containing around 23 % copper. The concentrate is subsequently sold to smelters for refinement.

Total and EU funding

The “Almina” project has total eligible costs for funding of EUR 82 008 107, to which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 31 874 982 during the programming period 2007-2013.

Draft date