Even though copper is considered a less valuable metal than its’ cousin gold, extracting the copper is a high-priced process. But how can that be? Why is the extraction of pure copper expensive?
The extraction of pure copper is expensive because of the copper ore
Copper originally comes from copper ores. These can contain a higher or lower percentage of pure copper. Nowadays, ores hold less than 0,6% pure copper. To take an example, if you want to produce 1 ton of copper, you will have to dig through and process 180 tons of rock. Nothing but the tires for the trucks needed to do this cost approximately 30 000 dollars each.
The extraction of pure copper is expensive because of the shipping
After having searched for, found and secured the copper ore, it needs to be shipped to its’ final destination where it must go through a great number of procedures. This transportation of tons of copper ore helps to raise the final bill for the copper extraction.
The extraction of pure copper is expensive because of the intricate mining process
You may have read about what the copper mining process can look like in previous articles. If so, you might have an idea of the multiple complex stages that copper ores go through before it is remodelled into the final product. These stages are fundamentally the following:
The final stage in copper mining refers to electrolysis being used to raise the extraction’s proportion of unmixed copper, 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. Seeing as these stages are both many and complicated, it is not difficult to imagine the costs to execute every step could be quite elevated.
Anyhow, copper is far from the most expensive metal to extract, since there are other, much more reactive, metals playing this part. These interfere more with their environment and are therefore harder to find in ores that are concentrated enough.