The ore is removed from the ground in either open pit or underground mines. Underground sinking a vertical shaft into the earth to reach the copper ore and driving horizontal tunnels into the ore. Open pit 90% of ore is mined using the open pit method. Ores near the surface can be quarried after removal of the surface layers.
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The ore is enriched using a process called froth flotation. Unwanted material sinks to the bottom and is removed.
This is where the chemical reactions start. The powdered, enriched ore is heated in air between 500°C and 700°C to remove some sulphur and dry the ore, which is still a solid called calcine.
A flux is a substance which is added to the ore to make it melt more easily. The solid calcine is heated to 1200°C and melts. Some impurities are removed forming a matte .
Air is blown into the liquid matte forming blister copper, so called because the gas bubbles trapped in the solid form blisters on the surface.
The copper is purified to 99.99% by electrolysis. The production route described above shows the progression from a rock containing about 0.2% copper to a copper cathode of 99.99% purity.
Leaching offers an alternative to copper mining. First, the ore is treated with dilute sulphuric acid. This trickles slowly down through the ore, over a period of months, dissolving copper to form a weak solution of copper sulphate. The copper is then recovered by electrolysis. This process is known as SX EW . Advantages of these processes are: 1. Much less energy is used than in traditional mining 2. No waste gases are given off 3. Low capital investment 4. Ability to be operated economically on a small scale. It can be used on ore with as little as 0.1% copper for this reason leaching extraction is growing in importance. It is estimated that SX EW will represent 21% of total copper refined production in 2019.
Another important source of copper is recycled scrap, described as secondary copper production. Around half of Europes copper demand is currently met with recycled material, making an important contribution to the circular economy. To read more about copper recycling, click here.
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Copper Processing Plant description: There are mainly three types of copper ore: sulfide type copper ore, oxide type copper ore and mixed ore. Based on abundant experiences on copper mining project, Prominer supplies customized solution for different types of copper ore. General processing technologies for copper ore are summarized as below: II.
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