Copper is primarily produced by mining certain mineral compounds that contain copper, processing the ores, and then smelting and extracting the copper metal. Copper materials are recyclable as well, and the recycled copper scraps can be fully utilized, as the process does not change the metal's properties.
Copper is mined within two types of ore: oxide copper minerals such as malachite, azurite and chrysocolla, and sulfide copper minerals such as bornite, chalcopyrite and chalcocite. These copper ores are mined primarily by open pit mining or underground mining, then transported to an off-site facility for processing and refining.
At the processing facility, oxide ores are crushed, while sulfide ores go through a more extensive process involving crushing and wet grinding to reduce the size for the flotation process. Oxide ores are then saturated with acid solutions that dissolve the copper content, and then this solution is sent to a solvent extraction plant. Sulfide ores are mixed with water and other chemicals to create a slurry, which, when agitated, causes the desirable minerals to float for easy collection.
Sulfide ores are smelted to reach 99 percent purity, while oxide ores are purified in an extraction process. Finally, the ores are refined further to reach the purity level required for the intended application.