Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Copper Production 101

"Everything in life that is not grown must come from the ground" - The KIN Catalyst

The world needs mining. What would it be our world without mining? No copper for wire, no steel for construction, no cement for building houses, no gold for computer chips, and so many more things we wouldn't have without mining. Our daily life with mining industries is so close yet so far. We use its final product everyday but we never know its journey from ground to our house.

Today we use cellphone, laptop, watch TV, lamps everywhere and all of them are needing conductor to connect to electricity source. The problem is conductor are hid deep beneath the ground. It takes deep enough digging till you reach it. That's why we need mining. However, from mining we cannot obtain pure gold, copper, iron, etc as needed to be the conductor but we obtain ore instead. Mining is only a start for other processes to produce the cables we use everywhere till we become so used to it and barely notice it. 

This post will be about processes involved in producing our home electricity cables from the ground. I collected the information mostly from the explanation i got while participating in Newmont Sustainable Mining Bootcamp with addition of some googled information as cited.

Mining Process

Land with rich mineral content such as copper or gold or other minerals usually found in a remote area. Indonesia is one lucky country that has many minerals deposit beneath its land and sea. One of the deposit was found in west part of Sumbawa Island which later they called it Batu Hijau mine. Batu Hijau mine is a porphyry copper deposit with gold and silver as associated minerals. Every tonne of processed ores generates an average of 4.87 kilograms of copper and 0.37 grams of gold.

When they firstly found copper in Batu Hijau, that area was just a land covered by trees. In order to run the operation, they clear the land from its trees. Top soil, the fertile layer of land, is pared then placed in for some time and will be re-used for reclamation.

Mining Process (source: PTNNT)
After land clearing, they prepared for drilling and blasting which makes the rocks crumble. Rocks then carried based on its copper content (high, medium, low, or waste). High copper content ore will go directly through crusher. Medium and low copper content ore will be placed in stockpile and the rest without copper content will be placed in the waste dump. Ore in stockpile also will be processed later.

Ore Processing

This process aim to obtain concentrate from ore. Ore firstly crushed into smaller pieces and then enter the grinding process till it become a very small particles. Then the valuable minerals are separated from the rocks that have no economical value through flotation processes. Flotation produced side waste called Tailing which isn't harmful and placed in deep sea water.

Ore Processing (source: PTNNT)

The valuable mineral gained from flotation process then go through dewatering process which decrease the water level to 8-9% to what we called concentrate. Concentrate shipped to the smelter which then process it to be anothere semi finished materials.

Copper Concentrate Processing

Concentate from PTNNT shipped to PT Smelting in Gresik and other companies abroad. Here the concentrate go through several advance processes to become copper cathode as it's main product. Copper cathode is the main material to produce copper rod and wire.
Copper Concentrate Processing (source: PT Smelting)
Side product from smelting such as copper slag, anode slime, copper telluride, gypsum, and sulfuric acid will be sold to other companies to be used as a material for producing cement, fertilizer, etc.

Copper Rod and Copper Wire Processing

Copper cathode melted using a certain-process-i-will-not-explain-in-detail and then go through continuous casting and rolling processes to form the desirable specification.
Continuous casting and rolling (source:
Copper Rod Packed
To produce a copper wire we use at home, the copper rod has to enter the drawing process till the diameter meets the specification. It will be covered using isolator such as pvc or else depends on the its function. After going through some testing steps, it will be delivered to warehouses and retailers. Some electronics company will buy it B2B to complete their product. Some other companies will buy it to install electricity in their construction project of building hospital or school or mall or airport or military base, or any construction. While we you usually buy it from the retailer or maybe online nowdays.

Tada! Your copper wire has arrived!

Now you know that you depend a huge part of your life in mining industries.


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