Sustainable success through responsible growth

More than 150 years ago, a small gold and silver separating plant was established in Hamburg,Germany, under the name of Norddeutsche Affinerie. Ten years later, the company commissioned a copper electrolysis facility – the first permanently operating facility of its kind in the world. Now in 2018, Aurubis AG has developed into a leading provider of nonferrous metals, and the world’s largest copper recycler.

Once a small local company, Aurubis has grown into a worldwide group with about 6,500 employees. While the headquarters, together with the company’s largest production site, still exist in Hamburg, Aurubis has extended its operation to 22 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Today, the company processes complex metal concentrates, copper scrap and metal-bearing recycling materials into metals of the highest quality, and can without a doubt be regarded as a forerunner in the industry.

– Our strength is our strong metallurgical expertise, which we use throughout our whole value chain, says Jo Rogiers, Senior Vice President Technology as well as Managing Director of Aurubis Belgium.

– We have developed our own, efficient procedures for processing very complex raw materials, and we utilise our special expertise to develop alloys in order to support our customers’ product developments as well as our markets, both now and in the future. Offering a wide range of products and services for copper-related companies and applications, Aurubis is a standout among the industry thanks to its in-house cathode production, which translates into highly reliable supply, and the largest product range of copper rods and shapes with regard to diameter, coil sizes, alloys and materials – not to mention its status as the number one copper recycling company in the world.

– We also provide technical support, joint product development and customer service as well as extensive hedging and logistics concepts for our customers, Gaëtan D’hoest, Head of Specialties at Aurubis AG, adds.

World’s largest copper recycler

Aurubis has for long been at the forefront of the industry: in its early years, it was the first company to put chemically pure electrolyte onto the market. Today, having grown to be the largest copper recycler in the world, it utilises cutting-edge recycling technology.

– Using the Kayser Recycling System (KRS) at our Lünen site, we recycle secondary raw materials with a copper content of 1 to 99 percent in an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient manner, Mr Rogiers says. The recycling is carried out through various procedures according to the composition of the raw materials used. This enables material-specific processing of an especially wide range of recycling materials in a competitive and environmentally sound manner. Apart from copper, precious metals, nickel, tin, lead and zinc are recovered as byproducts.

– Our multi-metal recycling strategy combines the efficient use of resources and energy, covering the input of increasingly complex raw materials and steady growth of the recovered metal volumes, especially the minor metals, as well as flexible raw material input. In addition to efficient recycling, being in itself a manifestation of ‘green thinking’, Aurubis also implements high environmental standards in its everyday work. Coined and developed at the Hamburg plant, which is located close to the center of the city, the standards have then been put into effect at other Aurubis plants as well.

– We first introduced these standards in the 1980s and 1990s, and have updated them continuously ever since. We perceive environmental friendliness and sustainability as competitive advantages: they are thus a fundamental part of our operations, Mr Rogiers points out.

GM of Aurubis Belgium, Jo Rogiers (left), and Head of Specialties at Aurubis AG, Gaëtan D’hoest, are convinced that the UPCAST® production line will give a substantial boost for the Foxrod Product Line at Aurubis’ site in Olen.

A substantial boost in productivity

Of course, no company could survive if it was not sufficiently equipped to answer the needs of its customers. During the years, Aurubis has invested in high quality hardware to support its goals and aspirations – and to keep its operations at the peak of productivity. In 2017, the company purchased its second UPCAST® production line, which was installed at Aurubis’ site in Olen, Belgium.

– The new line will give a substantial boost to support the planned growth of our Foxrod Product Line, which is used to produce Oxygen Free Wirerod. The line offers an additional production capacity of 12 000 tons, bringing our total capacity to 40 000 tons, Mr D’hoest asserts.

In addition to providing substantial raise in terms of tonnes, the new UPCAST® production line allows Aurubis to increase the sales of its Copper Special Products for various growing market application segments, such as Complex Profiles and Foxrod High Performance Alloy Wirerod for the automotive industry.

– This is now the second UPCAST® line we have purchased since 2000. We have been very happy with the performance of these hassle-free, robust machines. Collaboration with UPCAST® has been very transparent and supportive throughout the whole process, Mr D’hoest declares.

Aurubis’ objective is to develop from a copper producer into a multimetal provider.

From copper producer to multi-metal provider

All in all, the future is looking bright for Aurubis: with the increase of digitalisation and the use of renewable energies, the company expects steady growth in its operations. To ensure its position at the forefront of the industry, Aurubis will pursue ongoing improvement to proactively tackle the possible challenges of international competition. That is why the company, at the end of 2017, introduced its new strategy with the central objective to develop the group from a copper producer into a multi-metal provider.

– We will consistently expand our business in the multi-metal sector to include gold, silver, nickel, tin, lead and platinum group metals, as well as minor metals such as selenium and tellurium, for example. In the scope of the new strategy, Aurubis will also focus on processing concentrates that are even more complex in the future, and will thus be able to expand the volume of recovered metals, such as selenium and nickel. Along with the goals for growth and efficiency of the group itself, Aurubis strives to work for the greater good through emphasizing

– We have set our sights on ensuring that our actions serve the economy, the environment and people. We are able to draw on our expertise in metal production and recycling as well as our longstanding partnerships, Mr Rogiers concludes.

In fiscal year 2016/17 Aurubis produced the following group-wide:

  • 1,160,000 tons of copper cathodes
  • 719,000 tons of continuous cast wire rod
  • 190,000 tons of continuous cast shapes
  • 230,000 tons of flat rolled products and specialty wire products
  • 42 tons of gold
  • 1,071 tons of silver
  • 2.4 million tons of sulphuric acid