Metal – The Origins
Metals are usually a malleable substance – this means that they can be manipulated and moulded into different shapes without breaking or cracking in any way. Metals are also extremely fusible – this means that you can be melted and mixed with other metals to form compounds that are often stronger than the elements when they are separated. So now you know the characteristics of a metal – where do they come from?
Extracting Elements from Ore
The majority of reactive metals will start out in the form of ore. This means that the elements that make the metal are embedded into the rock in very small particles that have to be extracted and then purified to create the metals that we use each and every day.
Before an element is extracted from an ore it has to be determined whether the costs of extraction are equal or less than the worth of the metal that can be extracted from the ore. If the metal is of a low grade or of a low value it’s likely that the element will not be extracted as it would be considered a waste of money.
How is it done?
The process of extracting elements from ore deposits isn’t the simplest, but it is relatively easy to follow. Here’s how we would process silver or gold ore.
Step One: The first step is to place the ore particles into a piece of equipment that crushes and grinds the ore to produce smaller ore particles that can be processed easily. At this stage water is also added to the particles to produce slurry.
Step Two: the slurry that was created in step one is sent to a leaching tank where a diluted cyanide solution is added to the mixture in order to leach the gold and silver from the slurry. Up to 80% of the silver and gold are removed through this process – the majority of the remaining gold is removed when carbon granules are added to the solution.
Step Three: The carbon is removed from the slurry, and so the gold that is attached to the carbon is also removed. The gold is separated from the carbon by washing the carbon with a caustic cyanide solution. The carbon that is left over will be recycled and used again.
Step Four: The rest of the gold is removed from the solution through the process of electrolysis. This is where the solution is passed through to electrified metal plated that remove the non-ferrous metal.
Step Five: After all of the gold has been processed the rest of the solution is left in a tailings dam to allow the chemicals time to break down and the water will then be used again within the plant. The gold is smelted to produce liquid gold which is poured into moulds to form bars.
Step Six: The bars are sent away to be processed further where they will become pure gold.
Now that you know the lengthy process that metals have to go through in order to become useful, will you continue to waste precious resources? There are many ways in which you can reuse these metals, but the best thing for you to do is recycle them so that they can be processed again and will eventually become something else that’s of use.
For more information on recycling your metals and making the most of your scrap you can get in touch with us here at Tyburn Metal, we’d be more than happy to help you with any questions that you may have.