Belgian Aurubis Awards winners:
a conversation with our colleagues

Olen | Monday, March 11, 2024

  • Pithchai Sivakumar (29) and Kevin Louwagie (33)
  • R&D Engineers
  • Working 2 years at Aurubis
  • Both won awards with their two teams at the Aurubis Awards 2023

We would like to introduce you to our two colleagues Pithchai Sivakumar (29) and Kevin Louwagie (33). They recently won an Aurubis Award along with their teams. Each year Aurubis presents awards in four different categories: Health & Safety, Innovation, Excellence and Team Collaboration. Kevin and Pithchai collaborated on two of the Award-winning projects.

Pithchai with the Iron Sillicate team won the "Aurubis Special Award 2023". Together, they sought a solution to valorise the Metamix and Koranel heaps in an innovative and sustainable way.

Kevin worked closely with colleagues from Olen, Beerse and Hamburg on the SPA project. The focus of this project: to recycle a CuPb intermediate from Hamburg in Beerse to recover more metals through the Aurubis smelter network. They were awarded the Team Collaboration Award.

  • What went through your mind when you heard you were nominated?
    Kevin: The SPA project is one of the larger projects within the Aurubis Group, as it involves three sites: Olen, Beerse and Hamburg. The team was happy because it is a sign of recognition for our commitment and teamwork. 

  • What was the inspiration behind your project? 
    Pithchai: During my degree, I studied a lot of materials science. With that knowledge, I enthusiastically tackled the project. Aurubis Beerse makes about 200 kt per year of Metamix and Koranel. We were looking for a solution to process that into a product which contributes to the circular economy.

  • How did you work together as a team?
    Kevin: The main collaboration was mainly between production and R&D at each site itself and with each other. We organised a weekly and a monthly meeting. The monthly consisted of one big meeting to discuss all challenges and find solutions. As the collaboration extended across three sites, we saw our challenge in that. Different departments across sites helped to keep everything on track. For instance, I worked closely with Lien Pacquets, Junior R&D Manager at Aurubis Olen. She accepted the Award on behalf of our team at the award ceremony in Hamburg.

  • What challenges have you encountered? How did you overcome them?
    Pithchai: Everyone works a certain way, and our project required change. In addition, my colleague Els Hermans found the challenge in exploring the niche market and convincing potential customers. You could compare the designer concrete and porous bricks to an organic product in the supermarket. The benefits are huge: it saves CO2 and is completely circular!  

    A crucial lesson I learnt is that all departments involved play a vital role. In other words, teamwork is super important!

    Kevin: We encountered a lot of challenges! Antimony, sulphur, logistical and analytical challenges, ... The most important thing to overcome them was working closely with the departments and their expertise. In the end, we overcame every challenge together. The award is the great outcome of that. 

  • What makes the project unique and distinctive from other projects?
    Pithchai: Thanks to our innovative technology, we have one of the purest ferrosilicate slags in Europe: Koranel. Our slag comes from a complex metal flowsheet. By using that cement, we save a lot of CO2.

    Kevin: The unique smelter network we own in Aurubis gives us the opportunity to process diverse and sometimes challenging materials. Furthermore, we can produce high-quality end products.

  • How long have you been working on the project?
    Kevin: It was an intensive project consisting of three phases. In the first phase, we ran three days of testing: the oven test. We studied direct effects and confirmation of metallurgy. The next phase was the ten-day pilot test. Mainly medium-term effects were studied here. After that, we conducted the demonstration test in which long-term effects were examined. That test took six months. 

  • How did you celebrate? 
    Pithchai: For the award ceremony, I made the trip to Hamburg. We enjoyed a nice dinner together with the Executive Board and colleagues from the various Aurubis sites. The atmosphere was great and the location was top-notch. We shared innovative ideas and best practices. That meant a lot to me. To be able to share my experience afterwards with my colleagues in Belgium also made it a unique moment in my career.