Copper-bearing ores fall into two main classes: oxidized ores and sulfide ores. The oxidized ores, such as cuprite and tenorite, can be reduced directly to metallic copper by heating with carbon in a furnace. The sulfide ores, such as chalcopyrite and chalcocite, require a more complex treatment in which low-grade ores must be enriched before smelting begins. Sulfide ores are more important commercially. Half of the world's copper deposits are in the form of chalcopyrite ore.
Ores are removed either by open-pit or by underground mining. Ores containing as little as .15% copper can be mined profitably in open-pit mining, but underground mining is profitable only if an ore contains 6% to 7% copper.
Characteristics and Use of Copper Ore:
Copper is usually found in nature in association with sulfur. Pure copper metal is generally produced from a multistage process, beginning with the mining and concentrating of low-grade ores containing copper sulfide minerals, and followed by smelting and electrolytic refining to produce a pure copper cathode. An increasing share of copper is produced from acid leaching of oxidized ores.
Copper is one of the oldest metals ever used and has been one of the important materials in the development of civilization. Because of its properties, singularly or in combination, of high ductility, malleability, and thermal and electrical conductivity, and its resistance to corrosion, copper has become a major industrial metal, ranking third after iron and aluminum in terms of quantities consumed.
Electrical uses of copper, including power transmission and generation, building wiring, telecommunication, and electrical and electronic products, account for about three quarters of total copper use.
Building construction is the single largest market, followed by electronics and electronic products, transportation, industrial machinery, and consumer and general products.
Copper byproducts from manufacturing and obsolete copper products are readily recycled and contribute significantly to copper supply.