The processing of copper ores is driven by the mineralogy of the copper hosts and gangue minerals. Most copper ores contain <1% copper and most of the energy and reagents used to extract that copper are consumed by the gangue minerals. Considering this, it is critically important in any copper project to understand both the ore and the gangue mineralogy before developing or optimising the process circuit.

Copper ores are broadly classified as oxide ore or sulphide ore. Copper oxides are processed via a hydrometallurgical route, usually by heap or tank leaching, followed by solvent extraction and electrowinning to produce a 99.99% Cu cathode. Sulphide ores are usually first concentrated using froth flotation to recover the copper host minerals, such as chalcopyrite, bornite or chalcocite from the gangue minerals. The resulting copper sulphide concentrate is then smelted to produce the final copper product.

Development of an efficient process flow sheet for copper ores requires a good understanding of the copper deportment between minerals. Often there will be a mix of oxide and sulphide minerals and understanding this distribution across the resource is critical in development of an efficient process. The distribution of copper minerals will usually change as mining progresses through the resource and development of a good geometallurgical model early in the development process can help plan for this variation through the life of the operation.

Copper sulphide ores often occur with important by-products, including molybdenum and gold. Recovery of these by-products can be important to the economic viability of the project and consideration should be given to them at all stages of development and optimisation.

MinAssist has a wide range of experience with processing of copper ores having undertaken optimisation and modelling of several tier 1 copper operations globally.


  • Sampling audits
  • Geometallurgical modelling of copper resources
  • Mine to mill studies
  • Operational mineralogy
  • Flotation circuit auditing and optimisation
  • By product optimisation
  • Process flow sheet development
  • Process simulation

MinAssist's Projects

Kansanshi Copper Mine - Operational Mineralogy

– MinAssist developed a comprehensive operational mineralogy program for Kansanshi Copper Mine in collaboration with Zeiss Microscopy.
– Daily mineralogy on key process streams to allow trend based mineralogical analysis of the process.
– Increase in total plant copper recovery of >5% in the first year of the operational mineralogy program.

Kansanshi Copper Mine - Gold By Product Distribution

– Characterisation of distribution of gold with copper minerals.
– Definition of balance between gold recovery to copper concentrate and recoverable free gold for dedicated gold circuit.

Cadia - Gold By Product Distribution

– Characterisation of distribution of gold with copper minerals in flotation tail stream.

Spence - Gold By Product Distribution

– Characterisation of gold distribution with copper minerals.
– Development of predictive model to define gold recovery to copper concentrate.

How can we help you?

  • Geometallurgical model development
  • Mine to mill studies
  • Copper flotation circuit audits
  • Copper by-product characterisation and circuit optimisation

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