hand holding copper granules
No. 2 copper chops will be among the scrap grades Ames Copper Group purchases.

Bernard Schilberg of PMR shares details on new copper smelting plant

Prime Materials Recovery has partnered with Spanish company Cunext on the project, which is scheduled to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2022.

June 18, 2020

Prime Materials Recovery (PMR), East Hartford, Connecticut, is partnering with Cunext Group, headquartered in Córdoba, Spain, on a joint venture that will build a new copper smelter in Shelby, North Carolina.

Ames Copper Group, the joint venture, plans to invest $26.3 million to build the facility, which will recycle and purify copper materials.

Currently, PMR’s affiliate, IMC Metals America, employs a 76-person workforce in the state, manufacturing copper for wiring and lightning rods, as well as applications in the defense industry.

Bernard Schilberg, CEO of PMR, says the partners looked at three areas where PMR currently has locations before deciding to site the plant in North Carolina. While it was a difficult decision, he says the workforce and incentives the state was offering made North Carolina the right place to build the smelter.

Cunext and PMR share synergies, Schilberg says, with Cunext having experience in copper mining and refining and PMR having experience in direct melting of copper scrap.

The smelter has been in the planning stages for more than a year. Schilberg says China’s restrictions on copper scrap imports and the oversupply they have created in the U.S. market prompted the venture, as did the demand for copper anodes in North America. “We will be able to compete globally with the new efficient technology we are implementing.”

Ames Copper Group will purchase birch/cliff, No. 2 copper chops with a minimum of 90 percent copper content and copper-bearing scrap and copper alloys with a minimum of 85 percent copper content. Schilberg says the smelter will consume 54,000 tons of scrap annually to produce 50,000 tons of 99.7 percent copper custom anodes.

While PMR will supply some of the scrap, he says, “a substantial amount will be purchased outside of PMR” and from throughout North, South and Central America.

Ames Copper Group will install a 180-ton tilting furnace and a casting wheel as well as pollution control equipment. “We are in the permitting process as we speak,” Schilberg says. “We feel very comfortable with the position that we’ve taken. We are an incredibly socially conscious company. We feel that the technology and engineering going into this project will be state of the art. This will be the Cadillac among the copper smelting facilities in the world.”

He expects the plant to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2022.  

Ames Copper Group will create 46 jobs in Cleveland County, North Carolina, including casting workers, maintenance personnel, supervisors and administrative staff.

A performance-based grant of $150,000 from the One North Carolina Fund will help locate Ames Copper Group to Cleveland County. The One N.C. Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and to create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One N.C. grants require a matching grant from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.