The metals company now projects it will spend an additional 340 million euros ($375 million) on its Augusta, Ga. smelter. | Courtesy of Aurubis

As construction progresses “at full steam” on its secondary smelter in Georgia, Aurubis has decided to spend an additional $276 million to double the plant’s metals recovery capacity. 

The Germany-headquartered metals company disclosed that it now plans to invest a total of 640 million euros ($707 million) to build the smelter in Augusta, Ga. After deciding to add a second recycling module, the plant will now have a throughput capacity of 180,000 tons per year. 

The project, which broke ground in mid-2022, was previously planned to cost 300 million euros ($331 million) and have a throughput of 90,000 tons per year. 

The Aurubis board in December decided to boost capital investment in the plant, which will recycle printed circuit boards, cables and other scrap materials. On March 27, the company announced it has signed a contract with German equipment manufacturer SMS Group for the second recycling module. 

According to an Aurubis quarterly report released in February, the increased spending is a result of the additional recycling system, as well as inflation and adjustments for infrastructure costs. Specifically, the company is spending an additional 250 million euros ($276 million) on the second processing system and 90 million euros ($99 million) to account for infrastructure cost increases and inflation. 

The quarterly report notes production at the Augusta plant is now scheduled to begin in 2026. The company forecasts the facility will produce about 170 million euros ($188 million) in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) starting in the 2026-27 fiscal year, the report stated. 

Permits received, contract signed

After receiving its air quality permits from Georgia authorities last year, Aurubis subsidiary Aurubis Richmond broke ground in June 2022, and “construction is currently running at full steam,” according to a late-March Aurubis press release. Environmental group Savannah Riverkeeper had opposed issuing the permits.

Details on the company’s technology are described in a Georgia Department of Natural Resources air permit narrative document.

In March, Aurubis signed a contract with SMS Group, which will supply a second processing module. The core technology in that system is a top-blown rotary converter, which processes complex metals-bearing fractions so that copper, nickel, tin and precious metals can be recovered in downstream steps, according to a press release. 

The plant will produce blister copper, which will be processed into industrial and precious metals at the company’s European smelter sites, with some of the final products sold directly back into the U.S. market.

The release notes the Augusta equipment is modular, allowing for the addition of components in the future. 

“The modular system means we can plan a prudent market strategy that allows us to respond flexibly to the needs in the US,” Aurubis CEO Roland Harings stated in the release. “So Aurubis will benefit from the constant market growth in the US.”

The first stage of the plant is scheduled to come on-line in the first half of 2024. The second module is scheduled to come on-line in 2026. 

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