31 January 2024
by Hassan Akhtar

New copper leaching technology introduced by Rio Tinto

Nuton is a bio-heap leaching technology and Rio Tinto claims it can recover up to 85% of copper from primary sulphide ore.

© unsplash/Ra Dragon

Rio Tinto claims the technology does not generate any tailings, and eliminates the need for smelting and refining, creating a copper cathode in a single integrated process on site.

The leaching process starts by creating a heap of ore – newly or previously mined rock. A culture of micro-organisms and acidified water is added to the heap, while aerating it to accelerate copper leaching from chalcopyrite.

The company claims this produces 99% pure copper cathode while also being more environmentally friendly.

The name draws inspiration from Sir Isaac Newton and also the ‘new tonne’ of copper produced by the extraction process.

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Hassan Akhtar