Copper mining has made extraordinary advances, starting with primitive solutions to using modern, cost-effective and waste reducing equipment. But how does copper mining really work? Let us guide you through some of the stages in the process.
Copper mining stages
Copper mining requires going through several different stages after having located the copper ore, which are primarily the following:
By going through these steps, professionals extract the copper from its ore and convert it into pure, employable metal.
Extraction from the ore
Extracting copper from its ore can be done in, normally, two main processes: traditional mining and leaching. Traditional mining can be done two different ways, either by sinking a shaft underground and roadway driving into the ore, or by searching for the ore in an open pit. Leaching, on the other hand, uses dilute sulphuric acid, which dissolves the copper into copper sulphate and is a better option regarding energy consumption and gas emission. Also, leaching can be utilized on ores with only 0.1% copper, which has made this approach to extraction more and more popular within copper mining.
In this stage, the ore is crushed and enriched through a method called froth flotation. The ore, which is powdered at this point, is blended with a paraffin oil, rendering the copper mineral particles water repellent. The ore is then put in something that resembles a bubble bath and when jets of air are forced through the water, the water repellent copper particles automatically stick to the air bubbles that float up to the surface. Meanwhile, unsought waste from the rock drops to the bottom and is separated from the copper. When having completed this stage, the ore is composed of about 25% copper.
This last stage in copper mining refers to a process where electrolysis is used to raise the proportion of unmixed copper of the extraction, making the mineral as pure as possible. This method is also used for other metals such as nickel, cobalt and tin. Afterwards, the copper is purified to 99,99% by the electro-refining.