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ESG Concerns for Copper Ore Mining

Copper processing involves mining copper ore (between 0.6-1% copper) and turning this into sheets of 99.99% pure copper.

The process usually begins with an open-pit mine, where rock is drilled and blasted. The resulting boulders are put through primary crushers before hauling equipment transports the ore to a processing site.

Chalcopyrite, a sulphide ore mineral, is the most common source of copper ore. Four steps are used to extract and purify this mineral: froth flotation, thickening, smelting, and electrolysis.

Key fact: Chalcopyrite accounts for around 50% of copper production

Copper production has come under scrutiny due to its negative impacts on the environment. The smelting process creates air pollution, releasing large volumes of sulphur dioxide that can lead to acid rain. Additionally, the mining process leaves landscapes disfigured, destroys wildlife habitats, and contaminates water sources.

These factors have led to rising ESG (environmental, social, and governance) concerns in the context of the ongoing energy transition. Electrification requires copper, calling for the need to find efficient and sustainable ways of mining this essential resource.

Key fact: About 60% of total copper use is for energy and renewables applications

Benefits

  • Renewable energy resource

  • Low energy required for mining

  • Low capital investment

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