Home » What Makes a Good Ore? – A Guide to Mining, Smelting and Metallurgy

What Makes a Good Ore? – A Guide to Mining, Smelting and Metallurgy

by Lemaiyan Lemein
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Hauling gold ore from an underground mine

All ores contain minerals that can be used as inputs to make different products. The best ore has the highest concentration of minerals and is free from impurities. But not all ores are created equal. If you’re looking to start mining for ore, it’s important to understand what makes an ore good and how you can make your own ore better. This article will give you detailed information about what makes a good mineral ore and why certain minerals are better than others.

What is a Mineral?

The reason why different minerals can be used to make different products is because they contain a specific mix of chemical elements (e.g., sodium, chlorine, iron, etc.). When minerals are crushed and analyzed, they can be separated into the chemical elements they contain. If a mineral contains a lot of sodium, it can be separated and used as a sodium source. The separation is achieved due to the difference in physical and chemical characteristics of the minerals contained in the orebody.

What Makes a Good Ore?

Before we understand what makes a good ore, we need to define an ore. According to the mining engineering definition, an ore is a naturally occurring rock or sediments that contain one or more minerals that can be mined, processed and sold for profit. Therefore, a mineral ore is considered good if it contains a high concentration of minerals, is free from impurities, and is easily accessible.

Mineral ores can differ in size, shape, and composition. This is known as ore body morphology. Hence, it is vital to find one that works best for your purposes. If you’re looking to mine ore, the best way to find the right ore is to look for veins.

A vein is a form of mineral deposit that forms in a pre-existing rock through volcanic or after faulting processes. These structures are often found in fractures of the host rock, where the mineral deposit with new mineral material crystallizes in the fractures and fissures.

Similarly, mineral ores can also occur throughout the rock- evenly distributed or in ‘pockets’ making mining and mineral processing of the ore more challenging. Therefore, considering the mineral economics, it is best to find ore near the site where it will be sorted, milled, and smelted.

Milling and Smelting

Once the best mineral ore is found, it must be mined crushed, sieved, and milled. After crushing and sieving, the mineral ore must be smelted to remove any impurities.

Crushing removes the large chunks from the ore and sieving separates the mineral from the waste rock.

Crushing of mineral ore

Crushing of mineral ore

Smelting is when the mineral ore is heated in an oven or a furnace to extract the usable minerals. A mineral that is too impure to be smelted is called culm and is commonly used as a fuel.

It’s important to select the right refining and smelting methods because they determine the type of final product one is able to recover from the ore. The types of smelting done depend on the final product. For instance, coking is used when ore is to be used in the production of coke. Subsequently, the Coke produced is used in the iron and steel industry. Other process examples include steelmaking – the process used to make wrought iron and steel, and Ferro-alloy production (a mixture of iron, carbon, and other elements) among others.

Refining and Chemical Processing

After the ore has been milled, it goes through a series of steps to refine it. The mineral is separated from the waste rock and impurities, and then the minerals are chemically separated. It is important to select the right refining and chemical processing methods because they determine the type of the final product from the ore.

The types of refining done depend on the end product. Some examples include, Flotation Sintering, Chemical leaching and gravity concentration among others.

Finishing Touches

Once the ore is refined and chemically separated, it can be finished. The ore can be crushed again, sieved, and midden. Some mineral ores contain impurities that can’t be separated from the minerals, and that’s when finishing steps are used. Finishing can improve the quality of the ore by removing impurities. Crushing and sieving is used to remove the impurities from the mineral ore. Crushing improves the flow of minerals through the ore and sieving removes smaller impurities. Finishing can also be used to improve the appearance of the ore. For example, the ore can be roasted to reduce its size and to improve its appearance.

Schematic diagram of a flotation separation cell

Boring, Bobbing, and Burying

Some ores are too hard to be used without finishing and chemical processing, but they are too expensive or hard to get to be used directly as ore. They might be used as culm in furnaces, crushed, and sent to be smelted. They might be used as feedstock in cement plants, fed to be crushed and sieved, or sent to be roasted and sized. Some ores can also be used as fillers in construction. After minerals have been separated from the rock, they can be covered, buried, or stored. These finishing steps are called treatment and are used to improve the quality of the ore.

Summing up

A good mineral ore can be a valuable resource, but the best ones are rare and hard to find. There are many minerals that can be used to make different products, but the best ones are difficult to get at. The best ore is rich in minerals and has low levels of impurities. A good ore has a high concentration of minerals, is free from impurities, and can easily be mined, milled, and smelted. The good quality ore can also be refined and chemically separated, finished, crushed, and sized.

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