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General
  • Copper is a natural element – a metal that has been one of mankind’s most useful and valuable materials.
  • Copper is also an essential nutrient that is required by virtually all higher life forms.
  • The world’s two most important food crops – rice and wheat – are both highly dependent on sufficient copper in soil.
  • Copper is a ductile metal with excellent electrical conductivity, and finds extensive use as an electrical conductor, heat conductor, as a building material, and as a component of various alloys.

Process

  • Two basic production processes are used to produce pure copper from copper ore: smelting and solvent extraction electro winning (SX-EW). Ore is mined with less than 1 percent copper content. It is then concentrated at the mining site into a concentrate having approximately 20 percent copper. Under the traditional smelting process, the concentrate is shipped to the smelter, blended, dried, and fed to the smelting furnace. The blister copper is charged to the anode furnaces, where further refinement takes place. The anode copper, now 99.5 percent pure copper, is cast in copper anodes.
  • Smelting extraction electro winning is an alternative method of producing purified copper from oxidized ores. In this process, a solution of sulfuric acid is poured over the copper concentrate, leaching the copper out of it.  Currently, approximately 30 percent of copper is produced using SX-EW; the rest is produced using the traditional smelting process. The copper anodes are then taken to an electrolytic refining plant, where 99.99 percent commercial grade copper is produced.

Application

  • Copper is an essential component of dietary nutrition that enables the body to metabolize energy and function properly.
  • As with humans, plants and animal health rely on adequate copper intake. 
  • Copper is low in the reactivity series. This is important for its use for pipes, electrical cables, saucepans and radiators. 
  • Copper is well suited to decorative use. Jewellery, statues and parts of  buildings can be made from copper, brass or bronze and remain attractive for thousands of  years.

Market

  • Copper is cheaper to recycle copper than to mine and extract new copper. Recycled copper is worth up to 90% of the cost of the original copper. Recycling helps to keep the cost of copper products down.
  • Global demand for copper is likely to grow by 3.5% over the next three years, increasing the critical demand supply gap. This could keep copper prices firm in the international markets
  • Industry believes that demand is likely to register robust growth with the Government targeting telephone density of 15% by 2010. The demand is likely to come from rural areas.

Report

  • China is the largest copper consuming country in the world, but its use of copper is structurally different to that of most other countries and it is defined by different characteristics.
  • The residential land use criterion in New Zealand assuming 10% of produce consumed is home-grown is 130 mg/kg for copper

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