Nature Protection

"Armenian Copper Programme" CJSC realizes its activity in spheres bearing essential environmental risks. Environmental safety issue of its main production unit Alaverdi copper smelter has always been in the agenda of company's social responsibility. A number of researches and studies have been realized by the initiative and through the means of the company to reveal the realistic ways making copper smelter's work environmentally safe and fully complying with the principles of sustainable, inclusive development.

From the point of view of environmental safety to be consistent with the world advanced practice the company has essential achievements in excluding water leakages exceeding the permissible ultimate amounts. During the whole period of its activity company's mining and processing plant has been operated with closed circulatory system. In 2005, closed circulatory system has been installed also in Copper smelter's slag granulating basin.

Also, substantial works have been realized to mitigate the negative effects of air basin emissions on the environment. Still in 2003, environmental action plan has been approved in the framework of which a number of steps have been undertaken. Namely, thanks to operating both cyclones simultaneously with each converter it became possible to decrease essentially the non-organized leakage of sulfuric gases and to increase the amount of collected and double- recycled dust. In 2005, a dust regularly handling system has been installed on cyclones, steps have been undertaken to decrease non-organized gas emissions, as a result of which, the share of the non-organized leakage of gases among the total emissions has decreased to 3%, subsequently the only source of sulfuric gas emissions in significant volumes is chimney.

The main factor of the negative effect on environment by the gas emissions from Alaverdi copper smelter is the existence of sulfuric anhydride in them. This problem cannot be solved through mechanical refining realized by gas filters. Modern well known technologies for neutralization of the gases containing sulfuric anhydrite suppose either its saturation using inducing substance, or extracting secondary production utilizing sulfuric anhydrate (sulfur acid, elementary sulfur etc.). The company has undertaken certain activities in the possible two principle directions. In the period of 2005-2007, preparatory works on repairing and maintenance of dry electric filter system necessary for both versions of gas neutralization have been realized.

In the same period, with the professional assistance of "Lernametalurgiai Institute", neutralization semiindustrial test-station from sulfuric anhydrate limestone and lime has been prepared and tested, the effectiveness of which in 2007 has been reached to 70-75%. However, as a result of further comprehensive study of the possible versions for solving the problem in that way, the way of gas neutralization has been considered for the company non-expedient both economically and environmentally.

To provide technical background for the another version of gas neutralization through sulfuric acid production organization, in 2005-2007 the company has acquired from Europe and imported to Armenia equipment for gas cleaning (washing) department and sulfuric acid workshop. In the past, equipment has been set and prepared for exploitation. However, the current situation in the world market and transportation limitations of Armenia don’t make realistic the opportunity of sulfuric acid market sales, as a result of which construction and operation of the new workshop remains economically unrealizable.

Because of the absence of realistic alternatives for the problem solution, company chose to transfer the source of the emissions - the chimney. Though, this may be considered as a temporary solution of the problem, but it was the only realistic project, which might combine the imperatives of prevention of the social catastrophe and improvement of ecological situation in Alaverdi and in nearby communities. As a result of the project realized, the chimney of Alaverdi copper smelter was transferred from 780 m absolute height to the height of 1078m, where a 20 m in height and 3m in diameter chimney was installed. Compared with the previous 100 m height chimney, gases are exhausted from 218m higher point. The transfer of gases from the previous chimney platform is realized through a smoke flue having about 918 m length. In order to assess the efficiency of the new smoke flue and chimney operation, by company’s order “Lernametalurgiayi Institute” CJSC specialists are implementing monthly monitoring on exhausted gases content and on aerodynamics.

According to RA Ministry of Nature Protection “Environmental Impact Monitoring Center” SNCO data, as from October 2011 in Alaverdi the permissible ultimate concentration (density) of sulfuric anhydrite is exceeded for only 1.3-1.5 times, while before construction of the chimney and the smoke flue, it was exceeding for 10-12 times. The results recorded about the operation of the new smoke flue and chimney in the past period prove, that in terms of mitigation of the impact of the emissions on Alaverdi city and its nearby communities as well as in terms of improvement of the environmental general situation in these communities, the action was effective so far.

Nevertheless, we realize that in long-lasting perspective, the solution motivated by the world advanced experience for the radical resolution of the problem was and is the neutralization of gas emissions via organizing a sulfuric acid production.

Now, new perspectives for that are being outlined connected with the mining projects being realized in Teghout and other deposits. Particularly, the processes necessary for the extraction of the useful elements from the oxidized and poor sulfuric ore containing copper, require usage of considerable amount of sulfuric acid, providing sales opportunities for sulfuric acid and parallel to this raising the rationality of minerals’ extraction.