The Boulder, Colorado-based company has developed a catalyst that can liberate copper from low-grade chalcopyrite ores — which can have a metal content of well below 1% — by disrupting the sulfur metal bond of the mineral. Traditional leaching methods, which dissolve the metal to form a weak solution of copper sulphate, lead to a film forming over the copper in these ores, preventing it from being extracted.
The new process can be bolted on to existing plants and increase production by 20% to 100% depending on the type of operation, according to Jetti. The company installed its first commercial plant last year at a mine in Arizona run by Capstone Mining Corp. Capstone says that by processing millions of tons of waste rock, it hopes to produce an additional 350 million pounds of copper — worth more than $1.6 billion at current prices — in the next two decades.
Jetti has a pipeline of 23 projects at various stages, including five pilots and three operations that it’s looking to transition to commercial status in the next year or so. By the middle of the decade, its plants could start having a material impact on global copper supply.