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BASF and hydroGEOPHYSICS Consulting partner to enhance secondary copper recovery through novel mining technologies

Global chemical company BASF and hydroGEOPHYSICS Inc. (HGI), a leading provider of geophysical services to the mining industry, announced an exclusive partnership aimed at combining expertise in mineral processing, hydrometallurgy, and deep well injection.

The collaboration aims to optimize copper extraction in the mining industry by utilizing HGI’s geophysical techniques to identify areas within the heap that currently offer poor recovery and will involve the design and implementation of a deep well injection program, incorporating BASF’s novel LixTRA leach aid to facilitate a significant uplift in copper extraction.

With the increasing demand for copper driven by both traditional end-user markets and the transition to green energy, there is a strong need for new mines. However, challenges such as declining ore grades, higher costs and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) responsibilities have limited medium- to long-term mine supply, resulting in a large looming supply deficit.

The heap leach process, which involves piling low-grade ores onto a liner and dripping a lixiviant (usually acid) over the heap to dissolve copper into solution, offers a cost-effective method for copper extraction. However, the non-uniformity of heaps often leads to areas of ore compaction and poor lixiviant permeation, resulting in suboptimal metal recovery.

HGI employs geophysical technologies to characterize the structural components of the heaps, enabling the design, operation, and monitoring of targeted lixiviant injection wells. By adding BASF’s LixTRA leach aid, greater ore-lixiviant contact is made, which ultimately leads to higher copper dissolution and increased metal recovery.

LixTRA is a surfactant that boosts copper heap and dump leach performance. It is a liquid, which is added in small (ppm) quantities to the irrigation system of the leaching process. It is a non-hazardous, low-foaming, non-ionic oligomer.

Due to its novel chemical structure, LixTRA has lower surface activity compared to most surfactants and is far less active than leaching aids that have been previously investigated. LixTRA is fully compatible with downstream solvent extraction/electrowinning processes and does not negatively affect microbial activity.

Initial results from a customer’s site have demonstrated a 20% increase in copper recovery during the trial period, prompting further testing on a larger scale to quantify the benefits.


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