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An Introduction to Mineral Processing: Learn the Basics of Extractive Metallurgy

An Introduction to Mineral Processing: Learn the Basics of Extractive Metallurgy

Picture frames, dental crowns for teeth, astronaut helmets, cell phones, and jewelry. What do all of these items have in common? They all use gold in some shape or form. Gold is one of many precious metals that are obtained through the mining of ore. Ore is a rock that contains many minerals. Those minerals have important elements, such as metals. Gold, nickel, copper, platinum, and palladium are some more commonly known metals from ore mining. The process of separating the metal from the minerals in the ore is called extractive metallurgy.

Extractive Metallurgy

How Does the Process Start?

Before any work is done, it is necessary to determine if the worth of the precious metal contained in the rock will outweigh the costs of mining and extracting that metal. The stone is typically given a grade; this mineral analysis will help determine if the stone is worth mining. If it is determined that the rockstoneworth mining, once enough stone has been removed, it is crushed so that the ore can be separated from the waste rock. The metal ores found through mining are typically not found in high concentrations in the Earth’s crust.


The minerals are chemical compounds that contain the precious metals mentioned earlier. One method for separating minerals from ore is called hydrometallurgy. This process separates the minerals from the ore and refines those minerals into a more pure form. Leaching is one method that can separate precious metals into a more refined layout. This involves dissolving the metals into a solution. The solution is then purified and concentrated before the precious metals can be recovered. The metal is typically recovered in its pure metallic state or as a chemical compound.

Pyrometallurgy and Electrometallurgy

Another method for separating precious metals is pyrometallurgy. This takes a solid rock that contains valuable metal and turns it into molten, resulting in the metallic state or elemental form. In this method, the stone is superheated to temperatures near one thousand degrees Celsius. This roasting process is typically referred to as smelting. A third method for extracting precious metals is called electrometallurgy. This process usually follows either the hydro or pyro procedures already mentioned. An electrolysis process can further refine the metals that may not have separated into a pure enough form.

Minerals and metals are ever-present in society. As advancements in electronics, transportation systems, and machines continue to evolve rapidly, the need for raw materials to create these new devices and systems is great. -The work of metallurgy is significant, from trains, ships, planes, and medical devices to cutlery, cookware, coins, and jewelry. Extractive metallurgy is the process that allows people to study the properties of various precious metals. The method also will enable engineers to discover new and innovative ways to use metals to produce consumer products.

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