Cathode Stripping Machine – Olympic Dam

The BHP Olympic Dam Refinery is the final stage of the copper process and produces finished copper cathodes for shipment to the customer.

The copper is “grown” on to a stainless steel “mother plate” through electrolysis within the Refinery Tankhouse. Once the copper growth on the plate is to a sufficient level, the copper and the plate it has bound to are removed from the electrolyte solution, and the copper must be stripped from the mother plate, stacked, labelled and strapped to be ready for shipment. To complete this task BHP have an existing, conveyor type cathode stripping machine (CSM). This machine is now dated, inherently slow and requires significant levels of operator input and maintenance to work effectively.

BHP initiated a project to install a new automated robotic CSM at the Refinery while the existing system was still operational so as not to require a shutdown period and risk impact production targets. BHP owns and operates a similar system in South America and have seen the benefits of it first hand with production rates and reliability. The new CSM has an input of cathodes bound to mother plates and it outputs stacked, strapped, labelled copper plates ready to be forklift loaded onto the truck, all without any operator input.

Following on from the success of the Refinery Crane project in which ICE showed proficiency in safely constructing large and technically advanced systems within a highly active, operating plant, ICE were awarded the E&I construction contract for the new CSM.

ICE completed the following tasks as part of this project:

  • Removal/relocation of existing services to allow for building expansion
  • New power distribution, lighting and services for expanded building
  • Power and Instrumentation wiring of Robot Controller
  • Power and Instrumentation wiring of new control room
  • Safety instrumentation wiring for all safety systems including light curtains, CCTV and fortress interlocks
  • Power and instrumentation wiring for robot system including all limits, proximity sensors etc.
  • Electrical installation of new Maintenance Bay gantry crane

Standard installation commissioning and Stage 3 & 4 commissioning support to BHP and Robot Vendors