How is Copper Mined?
Copper ore is extracted from various sources, a precious metal that has been an essential material in the development of civilisations.
Copper is one of the oldest metals, dating back approximately 3 million years. However, as it is highly toxic to the environment, its mining must be done to minimise damage to the surrounding environment.
Mining for copper typically involves a multistep process. The first step is transporting the ore to the processing site, which can be done by specialised haul trucks and conveyors. Once the ore is transported to the processing site, it is crushed into small pieces, and these are then piled into a heap.
Next, the ore is wetted. Various chemicals are used to dissolve the copper from the ore, and chemicals such as sulphuric acid are commonly used. Often, the process is called hydrometallurgy. Depending on the type of ore, the treatment will involve three or more steps. When you need details on Copper Pipe Fittings, go to a site like watkinspowis.co.uk/products/copper-pipe-fittings-and-press-systems/
Another process used to separate sulphide ores is froth flotation. A slurry of solids is then poured into a large tank and floats. The foam contains a solution of copper and other metals. During this stage, bubbles of copper-rich water are skimmed from the top of the tank. Since the foam is made up of water-resistant copper sulphide particles, the foam is recirculated to the bottom of the tank.
A second step is to remove the gangue. Gangue is a rock or other worthless rock that can be disposed of as mine tailings. After separating the gangue, a third step is to clean the slurry. The slurry is then placed into a cleaner-scavenger cell, and a surfactant is added. As the solution moves through the cleaner-scavenger cell, it binds to the copper particles. Eventually, the slurry is purified to a purity level of at least 99%.
Finally, the ore is refined into a pure metal. The final process is electrolysis. Electrolysis consists of a series of stages that produce a pure copper cathode. Typically, a single tonne of copper ore will yield between 10 kg and 15 kg of refined copper. Depending on the ore, the purity of the finished product may range from 99% to 99.9%.
There are a variety of other types of metals that are recovered from copper ores. Gold is often found in sulphide ore bodies, and some metals can be recycled into new components. Metals such as nickel and zinc can be produced from base-metal mines.
Copper mining is usually done in open-pit mining. Heavy machinery is used to drill holes into the rock, and explosives are inserted to break the stone. Over time, these holes are dug deeper into the earth.