Mipac

Kazzinc New Metallurgy Project: commissioned, optimised and under control

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Mipac engineers have recently completed commissioning of a process control installation for the new Lead ISASMELT™ plant at Kazzinc’s Ust-Kamenogorsk complex in Kazakhstan. 

The Lead ISASMELT™ was the final phase of a project that involved installation of multiple mineral processing technologies to increase the capability, efficiency, safety and profitability of Kazzinc’s operations. The earlier phases of the project incorporated a new copper smelter and refinery which has enabled Kazzinc to safely produce high-quality copper cathode in country and recover precious metals from their polymetallic concentrate.    

A number of Mipac engineers contributed to the project’s success, including senior systems engineer William Castro who says the project was a career highlight for him because of its scale.

“When you think that we designed, configured and commissioned the process control infrastructure for two ISASMELT™ plants, a refinery, electric furnace, two converters, two anode furnaces and all of the associated utilities, it’s a great achievement,” he says.

“Even more so given the location, cultural and language differences, and the environment — the site experiences a -40°C to +40°C temperature swing throughout the year. It was also a life-shaping experience to live and work in Kazakhstan for an extended period of time.”

Xstrata Technology (XT) contracted Mipac for this project and XT commissioning manager Alistair Burrows has high praise for Mipac’s work.

“Nestled deep inside the bowels of every ISASMELT™ rests a control system that keeps it running.  

“Kazzinc now has two of them and the fact that the Ust-Kamenogorsk site specialists had a year of operating one plant before commissioning a second, gave them plenty of opportunity to come up with complaints or improvements for Mipac to address.

“It says much about the thoroughness and care of Mipac’s work that no such complaints or improvements were proffered.

“The Lead ISASMELT™ plant is now successfully operating at Ust-Kamenogorsk, joining the Copper ISASMELT™ plant which was commissioned a year earlier and is running well.”

Mipac engineers also proved themselves to be highly adaptable and able to work under pressure.

During the lead smelter commissioning, a catastrophic failure of a key component in the neighbouring copper smelter brought the plant to halt. Although chasing a very tight start-up schedule for the lead smelter, the small Mipac team redeployed to instigate a successful temporary control solution, enabling Kazzinc to resume copper production four-to-five weeks earlier than otherwise possible. With copper prices averaging US$8000 per tonne, the savings were substantial.

The project also saw the first implementation of Mipac’s wireless cell condition monitoring solution, CellView®, into an ISAPROCESS™ tankhouse. The system realises the full potential of a refining or electrowinning operation by detecting changes in a plant and acting as a critical first indicator of process problems. (Since its implementation at Kazzinc, a global EPCM consultancy is installing CellView® at a nickel electrowinning plant in Canada.)

“One of the highlights for me was to witness the emergence of some of the next generation of Mipac’s engineers as world-class process control practitioners,” Mipac Project Manager and Director Don Robinson says.   

“The team of younger Mipac engineers who executed the Lead ISASMELT™ commissioning works willingly shouldered high levels of responsibility, adopted the plant as their own and worked through many challenges to safely deliver a smooth start-up and highly operable plant for the process and operations team.   

“Along the way they maintained the Mipac ethos of getting in and doing whatever was required to get the plant running while maintaining an unwavering discipline to the fundamentals of safety and good process control principles.  Mipac’s future is in good hands.”

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