Extract from: The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842-1954) Friday 25 June 1909 p 9
At the electrolytic works at Port Kembla all the huge machinery is In full working order. During the past few weeks several large shipments of ore have been received, and now that the low-level Jetty is completed, shipments will come at more regular intervals. The Wentworth estate proprietors have submitted a large area of land for building purposes. Endeavours are also being made to get the Government to resume an area of land for a township site, but so far nothing definite has been done. Where throe years ago Port Kembla only had a few houses, it has now several hundred small dwellings.
The erection of the new plant was started on February 1, 1908, and smelting operations began at the end of that year, with a plant equipped to treat copper ores, mattes, and blister copper, gold concentrates, gold ores, silver ores, and also to undertake the refining of dore bullion. The plant consists of a smelting and refining department, contained in 15 large buildings, the total estimated cost of which is near £150,000, Inclusive of stocks.
An outline of the process employed is as follows:-Material is received at the high level sampling mill, where samples for the use of the assay office arc extracted; from here it is hauled by electric trams to the top of the reverberatory furnaces, and is automatically tipped direct into them. Hero it is converted into matte, and runs Into a ladle suspended from an electric crane, which carries it to converters In which it Is blown to blister copper, which goes to the refinery, where it is made Into anodes in what in called the anode refining furnace. In this furnace, the remaining traces of sulphur and impurities In the blister are removed.
The material is then tapped out of this furnace into hydraulically-operated ladles, which pour the molten metal into moulds set on a large casting wheel. This wheel is revolved by a hydraulic motor, bringing each mould to the ladle, and continuing in its travel until the mould is mechanically tilted and its contents drop into water, and are thereby cooled. The capacity of this furnace is 90 tons per charge, and it is intended to put through a charge In 24 hours; but it is possible, when found necessary, to put through three charges every two days. The casting wheel is capable of casting at the rate of 25 tons of anodes per hour.
The anodes are now taken from this building, and brought to the tank-house, which consists of 360 tanks, or vats, approximately 10ft long, 3ft 7in deep, 3ft 6in wide. The anodes are suspended from the bus bars on the tanks; a steady circulation of hot cop-per sulphate solution is maintained through the vats by moans of air-lift pumps. Opposite each anode, connected with the negative bus bars of its tank, is suspended n cathode blank, on which the pure copper is deposited, and the gold, silver, and impurities contained In the anode drop to the bottom of the electrolytic tank. At regular intervals the cathodes are drawn from the tanks and sent back to the furnace refinery, whore they are charged into n refining furnace, the exact duplicate of the anode furnace; and after having been melted the product (pure copper) is cast into ingots, bars, or as may be desired.
The slime, which is the material dropped to the bottom of the electrolytic tanks, is drawn oft, and having been thoroughly washed to free it from any copper sulphate is sent to the silver refinery, where it is put into tanks, and the copper oxidised and leached out by mechanical agitation with steam and air. This slime is dried and charged into a cupel furnace, where the impurities are removed by oxidisation. The bullion at this stage is practically a mixture of gold and silver; it is cast into anodes and put into small porcelain electrolytic vats containing a dilute nitric acid solution. The silver Is deposited in the form of a granular mass on carbon plates, the gold remaining behind in the anode compartment. This silver is regularly scraped! from the carbons, and, being absolutely pure, is directly melted and ready for the market. The gold sludge is washed with acids to free it from any trace of silver, and then it is melted In graphite retorts.
The engine room contains all the machinery necessary for supplying the electrolytic current; the power for light and motors; a turbo blower to supply air for the copper converters; air compressors to operate air lift pumps throughout the works; and a high pressure air compressor to operate air lift for handling material.
The boiler-house contains five large Babcock and Wilcox water-tube boilers, equipped with superheaters, induced draught fans, and automatic stokers, 1601b steam at 100 deg. superheat, being used. The coal is received in high-level bins, the walls of which are 18ft from the front or the boiler, and have an electric crane spanning this space, so that coal can be taken from any bin and charged Into the hoppers of any of the stokers. This crane also handles all the ashes, and running outside the building disposes of the ash without any rehandling.
The electrolytic generators are of the Westinghouse type. It is estimated that the two machines employed can he run parallel, in which event the output of the tank-house would be about 70 to 75 tons per day.
The smelting department consists of two 17ft x 31ft hearth reverberatory furnaces, each capable of smelting into matte 40 ton« of ore each 24 hours. The slags from these furnaces are removed la steel ladles drawn by electric locomotives. The smelter stack is 205ft high and 8ft diameter at the top.
The converter plant consists of two 10ft 6in x 9ft 6in copper converters, operated by electric motor», and each vessel uses 3700 cubic foot of air per minute at 10 lb pressure. Each converter is capable of producing about 25 tons of blister copper every 24 hours from matte containing about 44 per cent copper. All machinery in this building is operated by electric motors.