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Kidd Creek research turns waste into new products.

Waste not want not.

It's an old concept which has become widely accepted at Falconbridge Ltd.'s Kidd Creek operations in Timmins.

In 1989 the company allocated $10 million for research and development, primarily to find ways of reducing pollution and treating secondary materials.

Early last fall the company began operating a $28-million indium plant at its metallurgical site east of Timmins. The plant draws the mineral from dust produced during the copper smelting process. The dust was previously regarded as waste.

Now company officials are ready to put another waste material from the smelting process to use. Work is expected to begin later this year on a liquid sulphur dioxide (|SO.sub.2~) plant which will draw the substance from the gases produced during copper smelting.

Both projects help diversify the company's product line and provide the residents of the Timmins area with a cleaner environment.

It has been a little more than a year since Falconbridge Ltd. began operating its indium plant at the Kidd Creek metallurgical site.

According to Warren Holmes, vice-president and general manager at Kidd Creek, the months have been filled with learning experiences.

"It has not been what you would call a smooth start up," Holmes admitted. "We have had to deal with variables in the feed materials but, on the other hand, now we're capable of treating feeds with high variables."

Indium is a byproduct of copper smelter cottrell dust. The dust is subjected to an acid leach process in order to recover copper, zinc, silver and lead. Through solvent extraction indium is also removed.

Company officials have known about the presence of indium in the ore mined at Kidd Creek since the 1970s. However, it took a 10-year research and development program to determine the feasibility of building the plant.

The plant, which employs about 21 people, can produce 55 tons of the material daily.

Indium is utilized in semi-conductors and electronics, solder, liquid crystal displays, batteries, nuclear control rods, dental fillings and rear-window defrosters for automobiles.

The indium is sold to the Indium Corporation of America which, in turn, markets the substance around the world.

At press-time the metal fetched between $225 and $250 per kilogram on the open market.

Under its supply agreement, Kidd Creek will eventually provide one million ounces per year when it reaches full capacity.

"There is such a wide variety of uses because indium is such a good conductor and it has such a low melting point," Holmes said. "In fact, body heat makes it soft in your hand."

He said the latter attribute makes the mineral suitable for use in fire detection and extinguishing systems.

The wide variety of potential uses has also made the substance more recession-resistant than materials such as copper and gold.

While the Timmins facility benefits from a lack of suppliers, Holmes believes the shortage has limited the number of new applications for the material.

"As people gain confidence in the world market, we are going to see more of a demand," Holmes said. "It is a growth market."

According to a report released by Cominco Metals, the Japanese market, because of the size of its electronics industry, has accounted for the greatest increase in indium consumption. The market's consumption increased from 850,000 ounces in 1987 to approximately 1.3 million ounces in 1989.

The U.S. market also increased during the two-year period, from about 700,000 to 800,000 ounces.

The only other significant market for indium is the European community, which accounted for approximately 750,000 ounces in 1989.

Work is expected to begin later this year on a liquid sulphur dioxide plant at the Kidd Creek metallurgical site. Like the indium plant, the |SO.sub.2~ plant will utilize waste from the smelting process.

Copper smelting produces |SO.sub.2~ gas which is currently used to produce sulphuric acid at the site. In the future a portion of the gas will be drawn off, liquified and marketed to pulp and paper producers, mining operations, the food industry and other industrial users.

According to Phil Wong, a spokesman for Marsulex, the plant is scheduled to be in operation in early 1993.

At full capacity, the plant will produce approximately 30,000 tons of liquid |SO.sub.2~ annually. Since the plant is still in the engineering and design stages, a price tag has not been disclosed.

Marsulex already has an "exclusive" arrangement with Falconbridge to market the sulphuric acid produced by Kidd Creek. It currently markets 100,000 tons of liquid |SO.sub.2~ in Canada and the United States, noted Wong.
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Title Annotation:Mining Report; Falconbridge Ltd.'s Kidd Creek metallurgical operations
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Previous Article:Miclash challenges ministers to support northwestern mine.
Next Article:Prospectors urge Timmins politicians to pressure the province for support.

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