Copper Smelting Market: Overview
Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract the base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is employed to extract metals from their ores including silver, iron, copper, and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, emitting other elements as gases or slag and precipitating the base metal. Copper ore typically contains only about 0.6% of the actual copper mineral, the most common ore mined being chalcopyrite. The ore is obtained by using traditional methods such as underground mining and open-pit mining, with the latter method accounting for 90% of the ore used in smelting. The ore is crushed, screened, and washed before being further processed.
Copper Smelting Market: Key Segments
The copper smelting market can be segmented based on process, end-user, and region. Based on process, the copper smelting market can be divided into reverberatory smelting, oxygen flash smelting, acid plant, tapping-the-flash furnace, converter furnace, and others. Reverberatory smelting and oxygen flash smelting are methods that require the resultant molten copper to be further processed to attain 99.9% pure copper. The gas emitted during the process is converted into sulphuric acid, which can be used within the plant or sold as a byproduct. A reverberatory furnace is fabricated from steel beams into a rectangular structure which is lined outside and inside with firebricks. Fossil fuel- and/or oxygen-fired burners provide exothermic heat required to melt the copper ore, which is supplied by the conveyor to the gas-tight hopper. A reverberatory furnace has a tapping point for molten copper and slag. There is normally a waste heat boiler incorporated in the reverberatory furnace, as a large amount heat is utilized in this smelting process.
Oxygen flash smelting is a relatively new and efficient method of smelting copper. The operation takes place in a furnace that has been pre-heated, preferably by natural gas burners. A fine mixture of copper ore, sand, and limestone is injected with the help of compressed oxygenated air, prompting immediate endothermic combustion at a temperature of 1100°C, without using any other fuel source. The copper ore gets transformed into molten copper droplets that fall onto the bottom of the furnace, forming a molten copper layer with a slag floating on top of it. Molten copper is tapped and subjected to the same processes as the reverberatory furnace smelted copper, except for the converter stage, as it has been already converted into blister copper in the flash furnace.
Copper Smelting Market: Drivers & Restraints
Based on end-user, the copper smelting market has been segmented into admiralty; merchant shipbuilders; and manufacturers of copper medals, tokens, and coins. Copper is also used for electricity supply, construction, industrial machines and plants, transport, consumer goods, and other applications. Due to its excellent electric and thermal conductivity, copper is suitable for use in electric engineering, electronics, and telecommunications. Its electric conductivity is 1.5 times higher than that of aluminum, which makes copper the preferred input material for electric mains. Despite its good formability, copper is extremely strong and it has high corrosion resistance.
Copper Smelting Market: Regional Outlook
Based on region, the global copper smelting market can be segmented into North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Middle East & Africa. Asia Pacific led the global copper smelting market, accounting for a major copper smelting market share in 2017. Economic growth and rising consumption levels in Asia Pacific provide significant growth opportunities to the copper smelting market in the region. Performance of the global economy also affects the copper smelting market, with increase in demand for China's exports influencing copper usage and other downstream products such as refrigerators. Major producers of copper ore are Chile, the U.S., and Australia, with a majority of copper ore coming from open-pit mining in these countries.
Copper Smelting Market: Key Players
Key players operating in the global copper smelting market are Aditya Birla Management Corporation Pvt. Ltd., ASARCO LLC, Jiangxi Copper Group Corporation, National Copper & Smelting, Vedanta Limited, Aurubis AG, and Yunnan Copper Co., Ltd.
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