Hamburg, Germany-based metals producer Aurubis AG says what it calls a serious industrial accident at its smelter site in Hamburg has caused three employee fatalities. The incident occurred on Thursday, May 11, with two employees dying that day and the third about four days following the incident.
States Aurubis, “A nitrogen leak occurred during regular maintenance at the Primary Smelter Plant East. The three Aurubis employees were directly exposed. Rescue workers and the plant fire department were immediately deployed.”
Comments Aurubis CEO Roland Harings, “We are deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to their loved ones and everyone else affected. We want to express our deepest sympathy.” Harings said there was an internal memorial service for the deceased employees at the Hamburg plant on Tuesday, May 16.
Aurubis says it is working closely with regional authorities as they conduct a detailed investigation into the root cause of the accident. “An update will be provided as soon as the investigation is complete and reliable information is available,” states the firm.
On its website, Aurubis describes its Hamburg Primary Smelter Plant as its “biggest site,” with more than 2,000 employees producing cathodes, wire, continuous cast shapes, precious metals and specialty products such as sulfuric acid and iron silicate stone at the facility. “Today, the plant is one of the most modern and environmentally friendly copper smelters in the world,” writes the firm.
The plant is labeled as a primary smelter, but in its 2023 sustainability report Aurubis says scrap also is melted at its flagship facility in Hamburg. “Though [our] primary smelters utilize copper concentrates as their main feed material, they also use copper scrap to a certain extent,” writes the company.
Aurubis says a sizable 2022 investment was undertaken in part “for the expansion of recycling capability and optimization of the flow chart in Hamburg,” and by late 2025, the smelter will have the “capacity to process around 32,000 additional tons of recycl[ed] material.”
In the United States, Aurubis operates a copper and brass sheet production plant in Buffalo, New York, and is in the process of building a $690 million scrap-fed secondary smelter “specializing in multimetal recycling” near Augusta, Georgia.