ABB helps turn electronic scrap into gold

2012-03-19 - ABB power and automation technologies are helping metals company Boliden create the world’s largest electronic scrap recycling facility – recovering copper and precious metals from electronic scrap using only a fraction of the energy required to extract metals from ore.

By ABB Communications

Boliden is currently ramping up a new plant adjacent to its existing electronic scrap recycling facility at the Rönnskär copper smelter in northern Sweden - an expansion that will almost triple recycling capacity from 45,000 metric tons to 120,000 metric tons a year, making it the largest e-scrap recycling facility in the world.

Rönnskär is an integrated metallurgical complex, which smelts and refines metals from mined copper concentrates and from recyclable materials like metal shred and electronic scrap. E-scrap comes from computers, mobile phones, circuit boards and other electronic equipment and contains metals such as copper, gold and silver.

The pre-sorted and pre-shredded e-scrap is smelted at Rönnskär using Boliden’s proprietary Kaldo furnace technology. After smelting, the molten metals are transferred to the adjoining production lines for processing into high-grade products.

In 2010, e-scrap accounted for 6 percent of Rönnskär’s feed, with recyclable materials as a whole contributing 24 percent. When the new plant reaches full capacity in the second quarter of 2012, these figures will rise to 14 and 31 percent respectively, thus enabling Rönnskär to become less dependent on copper concentrates and more energy efficient.

Electronic scrap. Images courtesy of BolidenElectronic scrap. Images courtesy of Boliden
Recovering metals from electronic scrap requires only 10-15 percent of the energy required to extract metals from ore. The process also supports the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which requires 4 kg of e-scrap to be collected and sorted per head of population in the EU. This is expected to rise to 13-16 kg per person by 2016.



ABB has played a significant role in the Kaldo plant expansion and at the Rönnskär complex as a whole. For the new Kaldo plant, ABB has supplied a comprehensive range of process-critical power and automation technologies, including the process control system.

On the electrical side, the ABB solutions include low- and medium-voltage switchgear to ensure safe and reliable power distribution throughout the plant; low-voltage industrial drives to speed-control the motor applications and reduce energy consumption; and RESIBLOC® dry-type distribution transformers, which are explosion-proof and environmentally friendly, and can withstand extreme loads and very high levels of mechanical stress and thermal shock.

The entire e-scrap recycling process is controlled by ABB’s 800xA Extended Automation System, and includes customized features such as remote operation of the process and an exact positioning system to prevent spilling of molten metal from the furnace.

The System 800xA solution for the Kaldo plant expansion is integrated with Rönnskär’s existing System 800xA distributed control system, which controls the entire site and all its production processes. When ABB first installed the Rönnskär automation system in 1999, it was one of the largest plant control systems of all time, with more 50,000 input/output (I/O) points.

ABB was recently ranked the world’s leading supplier of process automation systems for the ninth year in a row. In addition to being the overall market leader, ABB was also the ranked leader in several regions and industry verticals, including the metals and mining industries. The rankings were made by ARC Advisory and Frost & Sullivan in two unconnected market reports.

Rönnskär plant
Rönnskär is one of the world’s most efficient integrated copper smelters and metallurgical complexes.
In 2011 it produced 219,000 metric tons of copper,
as well as considerable quantities of lead, gold, silver, zinc clinker, sulfuric acid and liquid sulfur dioxide.
Image courtesy of Boliden


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    Gold bars. Image courtesy of Boliden
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