Environmental protection at Olen

The Olen plant is specialized in the production of high-grade cathodes, wire rod, oxygen-free wire rod, as well as bars and profiles.

During the past several years, the site has successfully increased its input of recycling materials, which poses high challenges to the treatment of air emissions, leading to extensive measures.

Improving environmental protection is and remains a very important objective in Olen. Since 2000 around € 41 million has been invested in environmental protection.

To reduce noise and CO2 emissions, a new facility for unloading and loading barges, the Cu-Port, was constructed at the site in Olen, Belgium, in 2020. Transport that was previously done by truck is now carried out in an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly manner by waterway. This prevents a total of about 20,000 truck transports per year and thus over 230 t of CO2 emissions annually.

In 2016, four 200-meter-high wind turbines were built and commissioned at the Olen plant. This € 20 million investment project is a cooperation with a partner from the energy sector and two industrial companies including Aurubis. Every unit has a capacity of 3.5 megawatts (14 megawatts in total). These wind turbines provide 28 million kWh of electricity annually, which is directly used at the sites of the industrial project partners and reduces the CO2 emissions. On top of this, an R&D project is running to define and implement measures to meet the European Green Deal requirements and ensure a sustainable energy supply to the Olen site for the future.

Another focus of the site is the reduction of metal emissions to water and the impact of our production on bodies of water. In order to avoid the impact to the nature reserve Olens Broek from cleaned effluent from the site’s wastewater treatment plant, a new effluent pipeline was commissioned in 2015. With this pipeline, the creek that runs through the nature reserve is no longer used for the cleaned effluent and the nature reserve is completely bypassed by the new effluent pipeline. In addition, the point of discharge was chosen in such a way that contact with the nature reserve is ruled out due to the direction of the river’s flow.

The introduction of the environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001 started at the rod production plant in 1998. Since 2006, the environmental management system for all activities of Aurubis Olen has been ISO 14001-certified. In 2020, the energy management system, which was until then part of the environmental management system, was extended, upgraded and certified in accordance with ISO 50001. Additionally, the quality management system is certified in accordance with ISO 9001 and since mid-2021, the health and safety management system has also been certified in accordance with ISO 45001.

Environmental Protection Olen - facts & figures
Metal emissions

Metal emissions in g/t of copper output and in g/t of copper equivalent

The metal emissions to water per ton of copper output have been reduced by 93 % since 2004.

Metals in water emissions have been significantly reduced over the years. The main focus is now on continuous improvements regarding the operational performance of the wastewater treatment plant and improving the pre-treatment of wastewater flows at the point of origin in the production processes in order to lower the incoming load to the wastewater treatment plant. Furthermore, a water management project has been initiated at the site in order to reduce the intake of fresh water to reduce the water discharge volumes and to maximize the reuse of rainwater. 

Energy consumption

Energy consumption [MWh/t] per ton of copper output

The energy consumption per ton of copper output has been reduced by 8 % since 2000.

Today, only comparatively small improvements can be achieved within the plant boundaries, because there are technological limits to the reduction of energy consumption and emissions. Feasible and cost-effective energy reduction measures have been implemented as part of an agreement with the Flemish authorities. For that purpose, at the wire rod plant, additional fan units have been equipped with energy-efficient frequency control units. A frequency control unit on the emulsion pump has also been installed.

Also at our wire rod plant, the rinsing water is heated with condensate from the steam from the air heaters, further reducing energy consumption. At our main furnace, a new heat exchanger to heat up the boiler feed water with the exhaust gases downstream of the recovery boiler has also been installed.

Dust emissions

Dust emissions g/t of copper output and in g/t of copper equivalent

The dust emissions per ton of copper output have been reduced by 88 % since 2000.

Further reductions of dust emissions have been achieved with the implementation of a new filtering concept. In 2020, a new quench system in combination with a bag filter was installed and connected to the main furnace.

Environmental Protection Measures & Projects
Air emission reduction

Next steps:

  • Assessment of fugitive emissions situation will be conducted, including an action plan for the reduction of fugitive emissions. Further reduction of organic compounds in (stack) emissions planned.


  • Implemented

Improve waste water treatment

Next Steps:

  • Further reduction of contaminants emitted to waste water on department/installation level (before end treatment at the WWTP).


  • Ongoing

Implementation of ISO 50001

Degree of implementation:

  • Successful certification on July 15, 2020 and renewed certification on July 15, 2023.


  • Implemented

Work out strategy on removal and management of asbestos containing (building) materials

Next Steps:

  • Replacement of roof and facades of two buildings in fiscal year 2021/22.


  • Implemented

Reduction of PCDD/F emissions

Next Steps:

  • Off-gas filter and quench replaced in 2020. Current results are very promising.


  • Implemented

Reduction of wire rod plant sulphate emissions to water

Next Steps:

  • Existing electrowinning installation in the wire rod plant has been replaced. Reduction of acid concentration in pickling line implemented.


  • Implemented

Improved storage of flammable liquids and aerosols

Next Steps:

  • Special safety cabinets for flammable liquids and aerosols installed throughout the plant.


  • Implemented

Pretreatment of pure copper scrap contaminated with organics

Next Steps: 

  • Pyrolysis furnace in operation to pretreat and remove organic material from pure copper scrap so that it can be fed into the Contirod furnace directly.


  • Implemented
Bleed Olen Beerse (BOB) Project

Next Steps:

  • The BOB project will enable Aurubis Olen to treat the bleed from its own tankhouse as well as the bleed from Aurubis Beerse on site in Olen and will reduce truck transports and process time. The cleaned electrolyte, which will be provided to the tankhouse, thus closes the loop at the Olen site (see milestone section for more details).


  • Start of operation scheduled for mid-2024

Environmental Protection milestones at Olen site
2022-2024 Bleed Olen Beerse (BOB) Project

On November 24, 2022, Aurubis Olen received the permit to build and utilize an on-site bleed treatment facility called Bleed Olen Beerse (BOB). As of mid-2024, BOB will enable Aurubis Olen to treat the bleed from the Olen tankhouse and the bleed of the tankhouse at Aurubis Beerse on site in Olen. The Olen bleed is currently transported to Germany by truck, and the cleaned acid that is sent back to Olen also travels by road.

Apart from significantly reducing road traffic, BOB will reduce the process time, provide cleaned electrolyte to the Olen tankhouse, and thus close the loop of the Olen plant and successfully contribute to environmental and resource protection.

2023 New scrap baling press

A new scrap baling press was commissioned at the beginning of 2023. The new baling press produces less noise and vibrations and is situated closer to and more in the corner of the noise reduction wall. As the bulk of the incoming copper scrap is processed by the new baling press, the noise level for the neighborhood is decreasing noticeably.

2020 Improved wire rod plant off-gas installation

In the summer of 2020, the off-gas improvement project at the anode production plant was concluded. A completely new off-gas filter and a new quench, positioned right at the exit of the anode shaft furnace, improve the quality of the off-gasses emitted to air and reduce emissions. In 2021 a new, encapsulated loading system was installed as a further improvement to charge the furnace.

2020 Cu-Port

Until the beginning of 2020, all containers, mainly with copper scrap, came into the factory by road transport. Only some of the incoming blister and anodes were already transported into the site by train and water­way. In March 2020, a new quay and crane were commissioned. Now up to 10,000 containers per year can be moved in and out of Aurubis Olen, situated along the Bocholt-Herentals Canal, via barges. This relieves the access roads to the plant of 20,000 truck movements per year and facilitates an important transport shift.

2016 Windmill project

In cooperation with a neighboring company and the electricity supplier for our plant, in 2016 four giant wind turbines were erected on and near the plant. These wind turbines with a rotor tip height of 200 meters provide 14 MW of green electrical power to the Olen plants and reduce the carbon footprint by 24,500 t per year, which corresponds to the electricity consumption of more than 9,000 households.

2015 Effluent pipeline

At the end of 2015, an effluent pipeline of nearly 2 km was taken into operation. This pipeline directly transports the cleaned effluent from the wastewater treatment plant to the Kleine Nete river, thus reducing the environmental pressure on a natural reserve north of the Aurubis plant.

2012 Noise reduction wall

In order to reduce the impact of noise from the scrap unloading and baling activities, a noise reduction wall was installed alongside the main road near the plant in 2012, leading to a noise reduction of 20 dB(A) for the neighboring houses. The sound pressure level is halved by 3 dB with each reduction.

Certificates Aurubis Olen
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Filip Lecomte

Environmental Manager

Phone +32 1424 3444
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