Comet Traitements develops a new copper factory at Obourg27/03/2018

Obourg, Hainaut Province – The green light was given by the Comet Traitements’ board of directors: the Biolix process, which was approved at the GeMME laboratory of ULiège, will be industrialized since a demonstration unit will start construction. As soon as the first half of 2019, this EUR 10.2 million investment will allow producing 750 tonnes of 99.99% pure copper a year. The factory will directly involve 14 new partners. Through this innovative investment the Mons-based company is developing in a new promising sector of activity in a context of circular economy.

Until today, traditional recycling technologies did not allow Comet Traitements to salvage all the copper in electrical and electronic wastes and in the end-of-life vehicles the company recycles. Through the fulfilment of Biolix project this situation will belong to the past.     

Biolix technology was initially promoted by the Marshall Plan (competitiveness cluster MecaTech) and the European Union (ECO-Innovation) and required 6 years of research and development. How does it work? Residues from the crushing of end-of-life vehicles (ELV), waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and scrap metal are plunged into an acid bath which properties has long been studied by the research consortium. Only some metals, including copper, are dissolved (leaching process). After the extraction of the impurities and purification of the copper-rich liquid, it is electro-deposited in the form of plates - cathodes - of an exceptional purity of 99.99%. These cathodes will be used, instead of primary copper, in traditional applications such as the construction industry or electrical and electronic equipment (cables, printed circuits, etc.).

This financing was made under the Walloon Region's "Reverse Metallurgy" programme, with the support of the SRIW, the SFPI and the local IMBC invest. Indeed, Wallonia hosts several technological innovation projects dedicated to metal recycling. They are based on a public-private partnership within the Mecatech Walloon Cluster with a total budget of 65 million euros and aim to establish Wallonia as a "Recycling Valley" at the heart of Europe.

Reverse Metallurgy is also a Knowledge Innovation Community (KIC) which enables Wallonia to play a proactive role within the European network EIT Raw Materials (120 research, industry and education operators in Europe).

If successful, this unit will be the subject of additional investments that will allow it to adapt its production to the market.

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