How HydroStar Improves the Electrowinning Process
We wanted to share an interesting story of how we partnered with a global leader in base metals to overcome technical and economic challenges involved in their mining operations. It was a joint venture that was truly a win-win for Chemstar and our customer. It was also one of our chemists’ most challenging and rewarding projects.
First, you have to understand that the mining industry is acutely aware of market conditions. To maintain profitability, producers continuously seek more cost-efficient, streamlined methods to process their metals.
The mining of these metals, such as copper, is a fascinating process. It involves several production steps in order to achieve the desired concentration of metal, which is just a small fraction of the desired purity when it’s originally removed from the earth. One of the key steps is leaching the metal from the ore by breaking it down into an electrolyte solution. It’s further processed by electrowinning, a process where cathodes are added to the solution and a current is introduced. At this point metal “grows” on the cathodes, forming a solid piece of metal. During electrowinning, smoothing agents are added to the electrolyte solution to allow the metal to collect more uniformly on the cathodes, producing a dense, high purity sheet of metal.
One of the more traditional polymers used as a smoothing agent is guar gum, although synthetic polymers can also be used. As we’ve written about in the past, the price of guar can be extremely volatile due to demand and supply constraints. We knew we could put our extensive knowledge of the mining and minerals industry, along with our scientific knowledge of starch, to create a starch alternative to guar gum-based smoothing agents. That’s how HydroStar was created.
In order to develop HydroStar, we worked hand-in-hand with our customer. They actually shipped us a pilot electrowinning station where we could test HydroStar formulations in small batches. In order to perfect HydroStar, we plated small samples in our lab and shipped them back to the client where they analyzed the samples for purity.
Through its unique ability to refine metals to a higher state of purity earlier in the refining process, HydroStar saved our customer a tremendous amount of money and has been used in their mining operations for more than a decade. Just as importantly, it helps provide a higher grade of metal, both in density and purity.
We’re continually looking to improve our formulations. If you’re interested in exploring how HydroStar can improve your electrowinning operations, please let me know.
Sales and Marketing Manager