More Information about Copper

Base Metals And Concentrates

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The initial stage of transforming mined copper ore into useful end products principally begins with mineral processing to liberate the copper minerals and remove waste constituents—such as limestone, pyrite, and silica—so that the copper minerals and other nonferrous minerals of value are concentrated into a product containing between 24% and 36% copper depending on the origin.

The second step, involving either smelting or leaching, removes a large proportion of impurity elements—in particular iron and in the case of sulfide ores, sulfur.

Copper has the highest electrical conductivity compared to all other metals aside from silver. Similarly copper has very high thermal conductivity, ductility and malleability as well as resistance to corrosion. Variance in the properties of copper makes it useful in different industrial applications.

The major uses of pure copper metal include in electrical wires which is about 60% of total consumption per year (copper wire is used in power generation, power transmission, power distribution, telecommunication, electronics circuitry among others); construction – roofing and plumbing ( about 20%) and industrial machinery (15%). Approximately 5% of copper produced is used to make alloys, mainly brass and bronze, while a small portion of copper is used in production of compounds for nutritional supplements among others.

Crude copper, which is usually obtained by pyrometallurgical methods, is not suitable to serve in electrical applications because impurities greatly reduce the metal’s conductivity. A purity > 99.7% is therefore required in these applications. Purification of copper is achieved by electro-refining. Large slabs of crude copper serve as the anodes in the cell, and thin sheets of pure copper serve as the cathodes.

The final step of production of copper involves purification: Electrolytic refining uses an electrolyte of copper (II) sulphate solution, impure copper anodes, and strips off high purity copper for the cathodes.

Refining removes the last traces of the impurity elements and produces a copper product of 99.99 percent purity.

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