There are two distinct types of copper ore, the sulfide ore and the oxide ore. The sulfide ores are beneficiated in flotation cells, while the oxide ores are generally leached.
The copper ore from a open pit mine is blasted, loaded and transported to the primary crushers.
The ore is crushed and screened, with the fine sulfide ore (0.5 mm) going to froth flotation cells for recovery of copper.The coarser ore goes to the heap leach, where the copper is subjected to a dilute sulfuric acid solution to dissolve the copper.
After that the leach solution containing the dissolved copper is subjected to a process called solvent extraction (SX).
The SX process concentrates and purifies the copper leach solution so the copper can be recovered at a high electrical current efficiency by the electrowinning cells. It does this by adding a chemical reagent to the SX tanks which selectively binds with and extracts the copper, is easily separated from the copper (stripped), recovering as much of the reagent as possible for re-use. The concentrated copper solution is dissolved in sulfuric acid and sent to the electrolytic cells for recovery as copper plates (cathodes).
From the copper cathodes, it is manufactured into wire, appliances, etc. that are used in every day life.