The process of extracting copper from copper ore varies according to the type of ore and the desired purity of the final product. Each process consists of several steps in which unwanted materials are physically or chemically removed, and the concentration of copper is progressively increased.
Millions of tonnes of low-grade ore and copper-rich tailings await the development of an efficient and economic bioleach process for chalcopyrite (CuFeS 2).The bioleaching of chalcopyrite in situ and in dumps is a practical option only because the low and slow recoveries are countered by the low processing costs (Schnell, 1997).
Chalcopyrite ores are usually processed by means of hydrometallurgical or pyrometallurgical processes, but due to environmental aspects and the possibility of increased exploitation of mixed and lower grade ores and relatively small isolated deposits, there has been a worldwide upsurge of interest in the hydrometallurgical processes of this ore as compared to pyrometallurgy.
Froth flotation is considered to be the most widely used method for ore beneficiation. In ore beneficiation, flotation is a process in which valuable minerals are separated from worthless material or other valuable minerals by inducing them to gather in and on the surface of a froth layer.