Sustainable and Efficient Practices at Atlantic Copper’s Huelva Smelter: Innovations in Recycling of E-Waste



International Copper Association (ICA) member Freeport-McMoRan’s Atlantic Copper hosted ICA and its members at its Huelva smelter in Spain. The focus at this complex stretches beyond just smelting and refining, making strides in resource efficiency and embracing the principles of the circular economy.

Sustainability and resource efficiency are embedded into the smelter’s core processes. ICA met with site supervisors to learn more about how the Huelva smelter operates with cutting-edge technology designed to minimize environmental impact and maximize material and energy efficiency.

“We are grateful to Atlantic Copper and Freeport-McMoRan for hosting ICA and its members. It’s always an edifying experience to see sustainable copper production in action and meet dedicated staff that are committed to continuously improving operations. We are happy to support our membership in their efforts to advance responsible production practices.” – Dr. Louise Assem, ICA Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs.

ICA members and staff at Atlantic Copper’s Huelva Smelter

Atlantic Copper’s dedication to these principles is evident in the smelter’s utilization of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro power, through power purchase agreements for a significant portion of its energy requirements, illustrating how industrial progress can go hand-in-hand with environmental stewardship. Energy efficiency initiatives have amplified the company’s efforts on clean energy, increasing efficiency by more than 50 percent from a 2003 baseline. Through self-generated energy efficiencies and renewable power sources, Atlantic Copper supplies 51 percent of its electricity consumption from low carbon sources. By 2030, the company aims to increase this number to 90 percent. In addition to reducing its carbon footprint, the smelter has implemented state-of-the-art technology and scrubbing systems that ensure cleaner air around the facility.

Efforts to enhance the sustainability of the Huelva site are continuous, as Atlantic Copper advances initiatives that align with responsible production standards. As a participant in the Copper Mark, an independent responsible production assurance framework, the Huelva smelter’s production is validated in accordance with the copper industry’s leading ESG standard, demonstrating transparency and continuous improvement in its processes.


Copper cathode produced at the Huelva Smelter, a participant in the Copper Mark.
Please see guidelines on the use of the Copper Mark logo here.

The company has established itself as a staple in the life of Huelva’s society, with an annual economic contribution of 178 million euros, employing more than 2,500 people. The Huelva facility extends over 45 hectares and it is located just opposite a marshland and a natural reserve of a UNESCO-listed biosphere.  Through the Atlantic Copper Foundation, the company orchestrates various initiatives designed to foster education, culture and local development. Protectionary measures of the local wildlife have led to the rejuvenation of local parks and land, seeing flamingos, fishing eagles and otters return to the area.  The Foundation’s programs, such as scholarships and educational partnerships, aim to directly benefit the residents, nurturing talent and providing opportunities for personal and professional growth within the community. More than 60 percent of the foundation’s efforts go toward initiatives in education and environmental rejuvenation and protection.

“The relationship between Atlantic Copper and its Foundation with the ‘Marismas del Odiel’ Natural Area has grown over time and is full of ongoing activities. Surrounded by an industrial area and the urban centers of the province of Huelva, the positive evolution of its biodiversity over time demonstrates the ability for coexistence between nature, the urban and the industrial. In short, a great example of sustainable development”, said Antonio de la Vega, Atlantic Copper Foundation Managing Director and Corporate Social Responsibility Director.

Looking ahead, the Huelva smelter will continue to innovate with new sustainability programs focused on the circular economy. The CirCular Project will establish a new recycling facility that will treat the metallic fraction of e-waste to help address the 62 mm tonnes of e-waste generated annually. Currently, only 22 percent of this e-waste is collected worldwide, with the discarded metals carrying an estimated economic value of $91 billion. Addressing reclaimed metallic components from small domestic appliances, temperature exchange equipment, screens and motors, Atlantic Copper will support the recovery of copper and other important materials like gold, silver and platinum from these discarded applications. The $350 million investment into its new recycling facility, which will be able to process up to 60,000 tonnes of e-scrap per year, is expected to be complete and begin operations in 2025.

29 5月 2024



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