You are on page 1of 3

CHAPTER 1

1.1. THE SOURCES OF METALS

Metallurgy is the science and art of extracting metals from their ores, refining them
and preparing them for use.
Ores are naturally occurring deposits in the Earth’s crust. The ores are mined and
treated by various unit operations (mechanical processes) and unit processes (chemical
metallurgical processes) to extract metals, and to convert them into the metallic (chemically
uncombined) form.
Earth’s crust refers to the outer siliceous shell of the Earth which is about 35 km thick.
Metallic ores and other mineral products are produced from this crust. Therefore, the original
source of all metals is the Earth’s crust.
Average analysis of the Earth’s crust is given in Table 1. As it can be seen from the
table that oxygen, silicon, aluminum and iron are the four most abundant elements.
Since engineering metals Al, Fe, Mg and Ti are far more abundant than the other
metals. There is never likely shortage of these due to exhaustion of the ore deposits.
The commonly known metals, e.g. Au, Pb, Sn are so small in quantities in the Earth’s
crust that their commercial recovery is impossible. But, by natural events, those are
concentrated in certain parts of the Earth’s crust resulting in their economical recovery.
Ore deposits are metal-bearing veins, beds, placer deposits and solutions, which are
used to extract, metal commercially. Geological processes result in the concentration of
metals in ore deposits.

Table 1
Composition of the Earth’s Crust
Element % Element % Element %
O 46.66 Ti 0.44 Zn 0.0080
Si 27.72 H 0.13 W 0.0069
Al 8.13 Mn 0.10 Li 0.0065
Fe 5.00 P 0.08 Ce 0.0046
Ca 3.63 F 0.08 Sn 0.0040
Na 2.89 S 0.052 Y 0.0028
K 2.59 Cl 0.048 Nb 0.0024
Mg 2.09 C 0.032 Nd 0.0024
- - Rb 0.031 Co 0.0023
- - Ba 0.025 La 0.0018
- - Zr 0.022 Pb 0.0016
- - Cr 0.020 Cf 0.0015
- - Sr 0.015 Th 0.0011
- - V 0.015 - -
- - Ni 0.010 - -
- - Cu 0.010 - -
TOTAL 98.65 TOTAL 1.110 TOTAL 0.0459

Less than 0.001 % (Cs, Ge, Be, As, U, Mo, Ta, Sb, etc.)
Less than 0.0001 % (Hg, Tl, Bi, Cd, Ag, In, Se, Pd, Pt, Au, etc)
3
1.1.1. Further Definitions

Ore is naturally occurring aggregate of minerals from which a metal or metals may be
extracted at a profit.
Mineral is a naturally occurring homogeneous inorganic substance of definite
chemical composition and with certain characteristic physical properties; e.g. galena PbS,
chalcopyrite CuFeS
2
.
Ore minerals are those minerals that contain the valuable metals in an ore; e.g. PbS,
CuFeS
2
, ZnS…etc.
Sulfide ores are ores that contain sulfides, e.g. non-ferrous ore minerals such as PbS,
CuFeS
2
, and ZnS…etc.
Oxide or Oxidized ores contain oxide, carbonate, sulfate, hydroxide or silicate ore
minerals; e.g. Fe
2
O
3
, PbCO
3
, FeCO
3
, PbSO
4
, Zn
2
(OH)
2
.SiO
3
…etc.
Gangue minerals are the valueless minerals found in ores, e.g. waste wall rock broken
with ore. In a typical Pb – Zn ore, we have: galena (PbS-ore mineral), sphalerite (ZnS-ore
mineral) and quartz (SiO
2
-gangue mineral).
Tenor (grade) of an ore is the amount of valuable metal in the ore. This is given in
percentage of metal or metallic oxide, except in precious metal ores; e.g. Au, Ag and Pt where
the analysis is reported in gms / metric ton or troy ounces / short ton. (1 troy ounce =31
grams, 1 short ton =2000 lbs or 907 kg)
Placer or placer deposits are ore deposits formed by the erosion of rocks by the action
of wind and water. Rocks are broken down both chemically and mechanically, and the action
of water tends to concentrate some of the minerals, e.g. native Au, Pt and cassiterite (SnO
2
)
Ferrous and non-ferrous ore: Ferrous ores are ores used in ferrous metallurgy; the
metallurgy of iron and steel. Non-ferrous ores are used in the technologies of all metals other
than iron.
Alloys: An alloy is a substance, with metallic properties, that contains more than one
element, e.g. brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; steel is an alloy of iron and carbon (C 2%).

1.1.2. Minerals and Ores of Common and Precious Metals

Iron ores
Ore minerals of iron are hematite (Fe
2
O
3
), magnetite (Fe
3
O
4
), limonite (Fe
2
O
3
.xH
2
O)
and siderite (FeCO
3
). Magnetite is a magnetic mineral. Hematite is the most important ore
mineral of iron and it is weakly magnetic. Since siderite and limonite are ore minerals lower
in grade than others, they are not so desirable in iron ores. Pyrite (FeS
2
) may be used after
roasting as pyrite cinder (iron oxide ash) for the production of iron.
Ores: Most iron ores contain large amounts of the iron ore mineral and relatively small
amounts of gangue. Most of the direct-smelting ores contain about 50 % Fe, although ores
with as low as 25-30 % Fe are smelted after concentration.

Aluminum ores
Ore minerals of aluminum are gibbsite (Al
2
O
3
.3H
2
O), diaspore (Al
2
O
3
.H
2
O), boehmite
(Al
2
O
3
.H
2
O), corundum (Al
2
O
3
), kaolinite (Al
2
O
3
.2.SiO
2
.2H
2
O), etc.
Ores: The only commercial ore of aluminum is bauxite. Bauxite is a rock containing
the hydrated oxides of aluminum; gibbsite, diaspore and boehmite (Al
2
O
3
.xH
2
O). Bauxites
contain 55 – 61 % Al
2
O
3
, 10 – 30 % combined water, 1 – 25 % Fe
2
O
3
, 1 – 3 TiO
2
and 1 – 12
% SiO
2
. Bauxites with low SiO
2
are desirable.


4
Copper ores
Most important ore minerals of copper are chalcopyrite (CuFeS
2
), bornite (Cu
5
FeS
4
),
chalcocite (Cu
2
S), covellite (CuS), enargite (CuAsS
4
), malachite (CuCO
3
.Cu(OH)
2
), cuprite
(Cu
2
O) and chrysocolla (CuSiO
3
.2H
2
O).
Ores: The primary ore mineral in copper ores is chalcopyrite. Others are secondary
minerals formed by the alteration of primary chalcopyrite and chalcocite. Sulfide ores in
nature are usually associated with pyrite (FeS
2
) or pyrrhotite (Fe
1-x
S) and other base metal
sulfides such as ZnS, PbS, NiS, etc. The ore minerals are usually associated with siliceous and
other gangue minerals. Therefore, the grade of ore is reduced to 1 – 2 % Cu.

Lead ores
The only important lead ore mineral is galena (PbS). Anglesite (PbSO
4
) and cerussite
(PbCO
3
) are found in the upper portions of some lead ore deposits but they are not important
commercially.
Most lead ores are found as veins, so are not suited to bulk mining methods. As a
result, the average grade of lead ore mined is higher than that of copper ore; in the range 3.0
to 8.0 % Pb and associated with zinc and silver.

Zinc ores
Sphalerite (ZnS) is the only important zinc mineral and usually associated with PbS or
CuFeS
2
and cadmium. Smithsonite (ZnCO
3
) and calamine (Zn
2
(OH)
2
.SiO
3
) often occur in the
oxidized portions of sphalerite ore bodies. Grade of zinc sulfide ores: 2 – 12 % Zn.

The precious metal ores
Gold, silver and platinum metals most commonly occur as native metals. They are in
the metallic state but they are usually alloys rather than pure metals. In a few cases, gold
occurs as calaverite (AuTe
2
). Besides native silver, other important ore minerals of silver are
argentite (Ag
2
S), pyrargyrite (Ag
3
SbS
3
), etc.
Gold, silver and platinum are usually associated with base-metal sulfides and pyrite.

Chromium ores
The economical mineral in chromium ore is chromite (FeO.Cr
2
O
3
). Commercial
chromium ores usually contain 40 % Cr
2
O
3
or more.

















5