Concentration of the Ore
When an ore has a low percentage of the desired metal, a method of physical concentration must be used before the extraction process begins. In one such method, the ore is crushed and placed in a machine where, by shaking, the heavier particles containing the metal are separated from the lighter rock particles by gravity. Another method is the flotation process, used commonly for copper sulfide ores. In certain cases (as when gold, silver, or occasionally copper occur "free," i.e., uncombined chemically in sand or rock), mechanical or ore dressing methods alone are sufficient to obtain relatively pure metal. Waste material is washed away or separated by screening and gravity; the concentrated ore is then treated by various chemical processes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.