With the help of $113,640 from the Utah Economic Development Board, a center of excellence for pyrometallurgical technology has been established at the University of Utah Department of Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering to find a modern smelting process for Kennecott Utah Copper.
The announcement came Friday during a State Capital press conference attended by Gov. Norm Bangerter; U. of U. President Chase Peterson; Frank Joklik, president of BP Minerals America, Kennecott's parent company; and Milton Wadsworth, dean of the College of Mines and Minerals.Kennecott has committed $120,000 for the first year of the study and will provide additional money as necessary if the study shows promise, according to a company spokesman.
The company currently is in the final stages of a $400 million modernization project for getting the ore out of the open-pit mine and to the concentrator, but the refining and smelter process is 50 years old. Wadsworth said the study is designed to create "world-leading smelting operations from high technology input."
Commenting on the study, Dr. Lynn Blake, director of the state's Centers of Excellence Program, said, "This new center could help insure that the state's copper industry continues to be a strong component of Utah's economy."
Wadsworth, who will be the center's project coordinator, said the result of the study could lead to a sharply increased efficiency in the smelting process and at the same time protect the environment. If the project proves successful, Utah could lead the world in the efficiency of copper production in economic and environmental terms, he said.
Dr. H. Y. Sohn, professor of metallurgy and metallurgical engineering and an expert in high temperature smelting processes, will be the principal investigator for the center's first project. Dr. Paul E. Queneau, visiting professor of metallurgical engineering and professor emeritus of engineering at Dartmouth College, also will be involved in the project.
The project will be conducted under the auspices of the department and the Utah Mining and Mineral Resources Research Institute. BP Minerals engineers and university faculty will comprise a steering committee and meet quarterly to evaluate the progress on the project.
The oxygen pyrometallurgy process, already being used in the processing of lead and steel, is believed to have application in the copper industry, Wadsworth said.