Leach Pad Cover Wind Mitigation Proposal

Project number: 
Freeport McMoRan
Academic year: 
Project Scope: Freeport-McMoRan Inc, (Freeport) is a leading responsible copper producer – supplying 9% of the world’s mined copper. Copper is at the heart of the energy transition because it is the metal of electrification. Technologies critical to the energy transition such as EVs, charging infrastructure, solar photovoltaics, wind, and batteries all require much more copper than conventional fossil-based counterparts. Analysts forecast that supply must double by 2035 to supply enough copper to support the global decarbonization initiatives and objectives. However, bringing on new copper supply is challenging, which may delay the energy transition. Freeport is committed to responsibly meeting growing demand through our sustainability strategy. Our Leach to the Last Drop Initiative (L2LD) involves advancing technologies and strategies to generate incremental and less carbon intensive copper production from ore on our leach pads that has historically been defined as waste. Leaching generally has a lower carbon footprint, is less capital intensive, and uses less than 50% of the water versus processing copper through a concentrator.
One component of our L2LD initiative involves covering leach stockpiles with a thin urethane sheet that is proven to increase copper recovery through heat retention and reducing water consumption due to evaporation. Covers are installed manually on the leaching stockpiles and then manually weighed down by operators using rocks to prevent them from blowing away. This manual process takes time, is human resources intensive, and has the potential to increase hazard exposure to our employees. Safety is a core company value and is foundational to our sustainability approach. Over the past several years we have partnered and designed automated cover deployers that can deploy the plastic onto the piles; however, the wind presents another challenge in keeping the covers securely on the pile to allow them to generate heat.

Get started and sponsor a project now!

UA engineering students are ready to take your project from concept to reality.