Research and development and innovations

Purposes, direction, and vision

The KGHM Group is a knowledgebased organization and the Company uses that knowledge to face its challenges, armed with research and innovation. The focus is mainly on:

  • Improvement in the efficiency of manufacturing processes, and
  • Development of new technologies in mining and orelexicon.png processing and in the metallurgy of non-ferrous metals

W długiej perspektywie planowane jest wdrożenie koncepcji tzw. Inteligentnej Kopalni, a następnie w pełni zintegrowanego Inteligentnego Ciągu Produkcyjnego zapewniającego bezpieczeństwo, efektywność technologiczną, jak również możliwość sprawnego i elastycznego zarządzania całością procesów produkcyjnych.

In the long-term perspective we plan to implement the idea of the so-called Smart Mine and of a fully integrated „Smart Manufacturing Line” ensuring safety and technological efficiency, as well as the capability to efficiently and flexibly manage all of our manufacturing processes. KGHM focuses on projects arising from our current Corporate Strategy, which are key to ensuring the continuity of the manufacturing process, as well as on preparing our global organization to meet the challenge of creating value in years to come.

Our integrated R&D comprises the entire value chain of mineral resources containing base metals (Cu, Zn, Pb), associated and critical metals (Ni, Co, Ag, Au, PGM, Re, REM (rare earth metals), In, Ge, and others) - from ore processing through metallurgical processes, downstream processing and developing new materials, to recycling, taking into consideration critical metals and the substitution of critical metals contained in certain products. The minerals mining and processing sector is a complex system comprised of various branches which ensure the smooth functioning of the various stages of production. Taking into consideration the global trends resulting from the depletion of easily available and low-cost mineral resources, it becomes necessary to reach out for more difficult technologies and innovations, ones requiring the application of new solutions comprising the development and implementation of new techniques to ensure the sustainable management of available resources.

Strong emphasis is placed on projects that will facilitate the development of technologies aimed at speeding up the availability of deep deposits, providing opportunities for the utilisation of resources located in adverse climate conditions and associated hazards.

Other projects focus on the development of new technologies for reducing the amount of excavated material, enabling a significant reduction in energy consumption in ore processing as well as higher recovery of useful minerals. In terms of waste management and metallurgy, projects are underway aimed at fully utilising our products and half-finished products - which is bringing the Company closer to the introduction of waste-free technology. There are also projects being launched that are aimed at the recovery of associated metals from both ore and waste materials. Research is being conducted involving the safe operation and development of the Żelazny Most tailings storage facility.

Innovations in the area of mining and enrichment are aimed at ensuring the stable operation of the Company and continuation of the Intelligent Mine and Smart Manufacturing Line concepts. The Company’s metallurgical innovations are focused on the growth of economic efficiency and reducing environmental impact, as well as flexible integration with the processing plants. The Company’s objective is to have an intelligent process line, enabling the holistic management of resources contained in geological and anthropogenic deposits.

Number of projects and expenditures

Currently, the Company is carrying out almost 30 programs or projects of highly innovative potential, including but not limited to the development of:

  • innovative methods of accessing deep copper ore deposits
  • URB /ZS-3-type automatic equipment for breaking up rocks in underground copper ore mines
  • a KOT-170A self-propelled bolting rig with automatic bolting head
  • a highly efficient conveyor belt with control and automation systems
  • energy-saving technology for copper ore reduction at the Polkowice Concentrator
  • innovative technology for preparing copper ore for flotation (using high-energy milling techniques)
  • highly effective technology for the enrichment of copper ore
  • innovative technology to remove copper from slag in the flash furnace technology process, and
  • innovative technology for energy storage, with the use of artificial intelligence techniques

R&D expenditures in 2010 – 2015

In 2014, there were 45 research and development projects completed, for the amount of nearly PLN 32 million, and 130 expert opinions, for the amount of around PLN 15 million. In total, the Company spent PLN 46.5 million for research and development activities. In the future, KGHM is planning a further dynamic increase of expenditures for research and innovation. The scale of investment is presented in the charts below.

R&D percentage share of Company revenues in 2010 - 2014 (IBR indicator)

R&D Expenditures 18 474 000 35 313 000 44 608 000 53 520 000 46 581 000
Revenues 15 945 000 000 20 097 000 000 20 737 000 000 17 315 000 000 18 611 000 000
IBR indicator 0.11% 0.17% 0.21% 0.30% 0.25%

Growth rate of innovative activity expenditures and changes in sales revenues, compared to 2010

Initiatives supporting knowledge and innovation development

To make the best use of the accumulated knowledge of the Company, KGHM engages in a number of actions to strengthen the communication and cooperation between experts representing various disciplines within the KGHM Group.

This was one of the reasons for the establishment of the Knowledge Centre in the Company’s structure. Its mission is to stimulate, design, implement, and coordinate the interdisciplinary research and development programs in the KGHM Group, in Poland and abroad. The Centre will be focused on developing innovative solutions to strategic, technical, and technological challenges, and providing continuous support for analytical and project needs.

In the year 2014, work connected with determining the organizational framework for the Knowledge Centre was conducted. The needs of KGHM and its employees’ duties provide the basis for setting the business objectives and areas of activities of the Centre.

The entity is currently operating under a consortium agreement between four companies of the KGHM Group:

  • KGHM CUPRUM sp. z o.o. – CBR (research and development)
  • INOVA sp. z o.o. (production of equipment, implementations, data transmission, communication)
  • BIPROMET S.A. (design and construction of production lines, machines and equipment, environmental protection facilities)
  • CBJ sp. z o.o. (modern analysis, laboratory facilities)

In the coming years, we plan to enhance the integration of these entities as well as to merge their capital. We also plan to involve other research facilities and national technical universities in the projects realized by the Centre.

In addition to the Knowledge Centre, our annual, international TOP100 conference provides an opportunity for KGHM’s employees to share their experiences. The conference is a meeting of the leaders and top managers of selected companies of the Group. During the discussions and plenary sessions, experts share their knowledge and experience on various substantive areas at the Company, both in technological development (underground and open-pitlexicon.png mining, enrichment of minerals, metallurgy), as well as in the management and organization of projects in terms of integration of personnel and the flow of knowledge within the Group. The best technical, technological, and organizational solutions are proposed and implemented by the employees of the Group.

The conference and the accompanying Knowledge Fairs are a good example of the practical results of KGHM’s long term policy aimed at enhancing communication and cooperation between the Group’s experts. In 2014, among others, the following projects were presented and distinguished: “Underground copper leaching at the Carlota mine”, the aim of which was to increase the efficiency of the mine’s operations (uncovering savings and increasing the mine’s profitability).

The main prize was received by the following project - „Platform to optimise control of the copper ore enrichment process”. Experts appreciated its universality and scalability. Improving efficiency was also the aim of another project presented in 2014 - „ Haulage Vehicle CB4-20TB”, due to the scale of innovation connected with increasing the range of mining machines and its influence on the entire mining industry.

Financing research by external funds and international cooperation

To minimize the financial risk connected with conducting innovative research, the Company also participates in programs financed from external funds.

1. Horizon 2020 Program

This program requires wide and interdisciplinary consortia and the participation of industry and science partners, and also provides the ability to deal with the challenges faced by the European economy. Currently, KGHM is takeing part in 2 projects financed by the Horizon 2020 framework program, which puts the Company in the forefront of companies and other scientific entities in Poland.

Since February 2015, KGHM has been conducting a project called „New Mining Concept for Extracting Metals from Deep Ore Deposits using Biotechnology” (Acronym: BioMOre), where KGHM plays a prestigious role as the coordinator of the entire project. Together with 21 scientific and industrial partners from Europe, Canada, and South Africa, a demo installation is going to be constructed at the Rudna mine, aimed at confirming the possibility of using a combination of fracturing and bio-leaching technology for the recovery of metals from deep and poor deposits located within Europe. The Project is expected to last 3 years while its total budget exceeds EUR 8.5 million.

The next project within the Horizon 2020 framework in which KGHM is participating is the DISIRE („Integrated Process Control based on Distributed In-Situ Sensors into Raw Material and Energy Feedstock”) project. The main aim of the DISIRE project is the development of a new method for the assessment and control of production processes, based on the characteristics of the excavated material and required product parameters, with the use of a new type of in-situ sensors. The proposed approach assumes that an integrated Process Control System (PCS) will allow reconfiguration and optimization of all production lines using objective internal data analyses instead of external experts.

A number of academic institutions are participating in the project, as well as Polish and European companies, including Wrocław Technical University, the University in Lulea and the German Fraunehofer. The total budget of the Project amounts to nearly 6 million Euro.

2. „Sector Program CuBR”

CuBR is an ongoing (since 2012) joint venture with the National Centre for Research and Development, where specialists work on solutions that allow for the sustainable development of the non-ferrous metals industry, using innovative technologies.

The aim of CuBr is to increase the competitiveness of the Polish economy and support the development potential of Polish science and industry. In the case of KGHM, this means selecting promising ideas for KGHM, and using them to develop breakthrough technologies or innovative equipment to improve the functionality of the core business line.

In the year 2014, two editions of the CuBr Program competition were launched simultaneously, with a total allocation of over PLN 90 million. 12 research programs were approved for implementation, including research and development work connected with new technologies in mining, metallurgical processes, new products, and recycling, while reducing environmental costs.

Other tasks connected with the next edition of the CuBR competition were commenced - including those related to mining process automation, increased efficiency of copper ore processing, and the use of rhenium in various types of coatings, as well as increased energy efficiency.

3. Knowledge and Innovation Community in the area of raw materials - KIC Raw MatTers

KGHM’s membership in this European consortium of over one hundred partners from 22 European Union countries, including mining companies, universities, and research institutes, enables the international sharing of experience. At the end of 2014, the consortium won a competition organized by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) to carry out a seven-year program called “Knowledge and Innovation Community in the area of natural resources” under the framework EIT Raw Materials program.

The EIT Raw Materials program is aimed at integrating and strengthening innovation in the raw materials sector, through the introduction of new technologies, products, and services for the sustainable exploration, extraction, processing, and recycling of natural resources. The role of all partners will also be to provide technology and services to meet the changing needs of society, as well as education, entrepreneurship, the creation of new jobs, and overcoming challenges associated with the scarcity of raw materials in Europe and the need to import them. KGHM’s active measures allowed the Company to report the areas of research which are the most important challenges faced by the Group - among others, the reduction of waste, the automation of mining processes and efficiency issues.

The budget of the project with the EIT is expected to reach more than EUR 400 million. The main office is in Berlin, but thanks to the commitment of KGHM and the companies from the Group, one of the six trans-national knowledge hubs – integrating Poland, Austria and eastern Germany – will be created in Wrocław. This will allow for the integration of the macro-region, in which the scientific community, together with industrial partners, will develop technological specializations utilizing the existing potential - from generating collected ideas for innovation in the primary sector of business and academia, in support of start-ups and SME-type enterprises, to large pilot projects testing the technology at higher levels of development.