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The chemistry of copper - how it is extracted and purified.

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The chemistry of Copper Copper is a chemical element which has the symbol 'Cu' and its atomic number is 29. It is a ductile metal that conducts a lot of electricity. It is used as a thermal conductor, an electrical conductor and as a building material. It is also alloyed with a variety of different metals, like brass or bronze. Pure copper is relatively soft, and when cut freshly has a pinkish or peachy colour. How is copper extracted from its ore? Traditional mining underground Copper-bearing rock is located in the Earth's crust. It is then blasted from underground to the surface of the Earth. The broken rocks are then collected by front-end loaders. Next they are transported in large trucks to underground crushers. Miners then sink a vertical shaft into the Earth to an appropriate depth and drive horizontal tunnels into the ore to crush them. ...read more.


Some of the ores that are mined are cuprite, Bornite, Malachite, Azurite, Tennantite, How much is left? Copper ore deposits will become scarce in a relatively short time, but the copper which has been extracted can be recycled fully. Copper is regarded as one of the few metals that are 'fully sustainable'. Which countries control the supply of copper? Highest copper outputs in the world: 1. Chile 2. USA 3. Peru 4. Indonesia What is meant by low-grade ores and why are they becoming more important? A low grade ore is an ore that doesn't contain a very high proportion of valuable minerals. Low-grade ores are less valuable than higher-grade ones but are more abundant. They are becoming more important because they are cheap and high-grade ores are running out and becoming more 'exhausted' so it is important to obtain copper from sources like low grade ores as well as high grade ores. ...read more.


The pure copper cathode increases greatly in size, while the anode becomes smaller because the particles move towards the cathode made of pure copper. The impurities left behind are gold, silver, platinum and tin which are insoluble in this solution so they form a valuable 'sludge' or layer that collects under the anodes. This entire process is known as electrolytic refining. Even the best chemical method it is not possible to remove all the impurities from the copper, but with electrolytic refining it is possible to produce 99.99% pure copper. Why is it important to recycle copper? There are only 25-60 years of copper supply left, so if we recycle copper we can continue to use it otherwise there will be no copper available for in the future which will be a difficult material to live without. It is cheaper to recycle copper than extract new copper. Landfill sites are beginning to fill up and it's expensive to get rid of it so recycling copper is better. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The response is concise and covers the main point of copper extraction. The introduction gives the basic information that you need to read the rest of the essay. This is a good skill to use anywhere as it shows that ...

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Response to the question

The response is concise and covers the main point of copper extraction. The introduction gives the basic information that you need to read the rest of the essay. This is a good skill to use anywhere as it shows that you have a wider understanding about the subject. In some places the response could have been more explicit as it left me wondering what actually the correct term would be for example 'special chemicals'.

Level of analysis

The first method of underground mining I felt was somewhat simplified with some room for explanation, it is always essential to explain anything you write down to the full extent of your knowledge as this will allow you to get as many marks as possible. As the essay progresses the quality of analysis increases, with more facts and informative descriptions given. The description about electrolysis is good for GCSE. Maybe more of the key terms used could be explained as it would had gained the student a few more marks as it shows a fuller understanding of the subject. The section on recycling could be more explicit as it seemed to be a little rushed.

Quality of writing

The grammatical and spelling side of the essay is fine. But the scientific language could use some work. Whenever writing for a scientific purpose you should try and use the appropriate language as it again shows your knowledge and understanding of the subject.

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Reviewed by cheekymokeyxxx 30/06/2012

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