Several developments are making copper and copper alloys increasingly important, says metallurgical industry plant and integrated systems provider SMS group.
Significant examples are advances in electric vehicles, as well as ever higher-performing computers and smartphones.
Copper is more than just a mined metal – it not only provides jobs but also promotes a higher standard of living, says SMS group MD Pieter Bezuidenhout.
He notes that countries, such as Zambia, which have rich copper resources and can conduct significant beneficiation as part of the production of copper anodes and cathodes, can boost their export revenue, and allow for widespread economic and developmental activity.
SMS group key accounts manager Samuel Gounden states that about one ton of copper can bring functionality to 40 cars, power 60 000 mobile phones, enable operations in 400 computers and distribute electricity to 30 homes.
“The copper industry provides benefits and value for more than just the organisations mining copper and those manufacturing products from it. Copper creates employment in a wide range of sectors, from plumbers and electricians to automotive workers and electronic equipment manufacturers,” says Bezuidenhout.
He tells Mining Weekly that these downstream sectors employ an “enormous number of people” representing a large part of the global economy.
He states that the expected increase in demand for copper is “highly beneficial” for countries in Africa with copper resources.
SMS group is a technology partner for plant supplies and equipment to copper mines for copper beneficiation and value addition.
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution a much-discussed topic – specifically aspects such as digitalisation, the Internet of Things and cloud computing – the SMS group, by applying selected implementation examples, has developed strategies for advancing digitalisation in the metallurgical sector, says Gounden.
“We are developing future-focused solutions in this sphere. Simultaneously, external framework conditions are constantly changing. These include costs for raw materials, energy and personnel, as well as statutory regulations, such as environment protection laws and legal standards,” notes Bezuidenhout.
The focus for plant operators is on the ‘learning’ manufacturing plant, which ensures intelligent and largely autonomous production. This involves the interconnection and collaboration of humans and machines in dynamic production processes that adjust to optimum parameters in real time.
Further, in light of tightening global emissions standards, the company’s range of sustainable technologies has been combined under its Ecoplants label. This label is awarded to the plants and plant concepts that distinguish themselves through their significantly lower consumption of input materials, consumables and energy, or through reduced emissions and higher recycling rates, Gounden explains.
He adds that the modernisation of existing plants can also considerably reduce a company’s environmental footprint. Therefore, SMS group has introduced Ecomodules to describe the numerous solutions available for the modernisation of plants.
“Within a reasonable investment framework, the technologies developed and marketed under this label could make a significant contribution towards improved sustainability while offering positive economic effects,” he adds.
With a focus on the whole process chain, SMS group continually evaluates how the sustainability of its solutions and innovations can be enhanced to benefit clients economically and ecologically.
Moreover, the company believes in the future growth potential of Africa. From its regional offices in South Africa, SMS group continues to offer its regional clients value propositions through its “globally leading technology” for beneficiation and value-addition processing solutions. These technologies range from smelting, refining, casting and rolling, beside others.
“We pride ourselves in the development of technology suited to specific markets and we are focusing on showcasing our technology designed for the African market,” Bezuidenhout concludes.