Copper - From Beginning to End

Copper is a major metal and an essential element used by man. It is found in ore deposits around the world. It is also the oldest metal known to man and was first discovered and used about 10,000 years ago. And as alloyed in bronze (copper-tin alloy) about 3000 BC, was the first engineering material known to man.

Today, copper's uses have expanded to include heating, cooling and refrigeration, electrical wiring, electronics, power generation and transmission, automotive applications, antimicrobial uses and many more.

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1. Exploration and Discovery

The element Copper is found in a variety of minerals in the earth's crust. Its uses are many. On the periodic chart of elements it is identified by the symbol "Cu".

2. Mining Methods

Copper ore is extracted using two basic methods of mining - open pit or underground mining.

3. Processing of Copper Ore

The first step in processing the ore removed from the mine is to break the large rocks of ore into smaller pieces. This is accomplished by a variety of subsequent processing steps.

4. Beneficiation of Copper Ore

The next step in processing is called beneficiation. This is the first step in concentrating the copper into a more useable form.

5. Smelting and Extraction

The next step in the process flow is smelting for sulfide ore concentrate and solvent extraction for oxide ore leach solution.

6. Refining

Copper from the smelter is melted and cast as anodes, the solution from the solvent extraction process moves to a plating operation.

7. Sulfide Ore Refining

The final step in processing sulfide ore copper from the smelter is to make high purity copper cathodes.

8. Copper Products & Many Uses

Copper cathodes are pure copper produced from the processing of copper ores. However, cathodes are not in the final form of usage as copper materials.

9. Uses of Copper

Copper has many uses because it is not only practical but also beautiful.

10. Marine & Other Applications

Copper and copper alloys are not only strong and durable, they are also very corrosion-resistant. This makes them ideal for use on ships and off-shore platforms.

11. Recycling and Reuse

The copper industry strives to be good stewards in the production and use of copper materials.