A. R. Almansa, I. González, I. Ruiz, G. Ríos
Atlantic Copper is a Spanish company that smelts more than a million tons of copper concentrate to
produce 284,000 tons of refined copper annually (cathodes). One of the most important steps in the
production process is electro-refining, which consists of electrochemically dissolving the impure
copper of the anode and, with the use of electrolyte, selectively plating the copper onto the cathode,
allowing impurities and valuable metals to be deposited at the bottom of the cells from where they are
collected, dried and subsequently sold. This process is strongly influenced by elements dissolved in
the electrolyte. The presence of some metals or semi-metals, such as As, Sb or Bi, adversely affects
the current efficiency and quality of the cathodes. Therefore, it is very important to control the level of
such impurities in the electrolyte.
During 2014, a test was carried out to separate Sb and Bi from real electrolyte using ion-exchange
columns (with aminophosphonic resins). The main outcome of this test was the development of a
complete operating protocol (load + washing + elution), as a result of which some effluents were
This paper describes research of the use of aminophosphonic resins to remove Sb and Bi from the
electrolyte, and the tests carried out to study the technological feasibility of alternatives for the
treatment of those effluents.