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History 

The ISASMELT™ technology is now well established as one of the standard technologies for copper and lead smelting. The ISASMELT™ process was developed by Mount Isa Mines Limited (now owned by Glencore) in the 1970s and 1980s. It is based on the top-submerged Sirosmelt lance, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO – an Australian government research organisation) in early 1970s, and involves using a lance to inject air or oxygen-enriched air into a slag bath contained within a stationary, vertical furnace. The potential of this novel smelting concept was soon recognized and resulted in a development program that has been ongoing for more than 35 years.

Pilot plants, demonstration plants and commercial plants have processed a wide range of materials over this time and ISASMELT™ is now recognised by many as the most economically attractive copper and lead smelting processes in the world.

A key to the development success and the subsequent commercial success of the ISASMELT™ process is the deliberate involvement of operating personnel in operation and maintenance of early plants. Their insistence on keeping the process operation and equipment design as practical as possible is a key factor contributing to the overall success.

The first demonstration scale lead ISASMELT™ furnace was commissioned in Mount Isa, Australia in 1983. This was followed in 1987 with a demonstration scale copper ISASMELT™.

Commercial scale ISASMELT™ plants for lead and copper were commissioned in Mount Isa in the early 1990's. Since proving the viability of these two processes, commercial plants have been constructed throughout the world.

To learn more about the history of innovation and development for the ISASMELT process please download the following paper.