Metallurgy: Oxygen and Ore

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Extractive Metallurgy

Minerals are naturally occurring chemical substances in the earth’s crust obtainable by mining. Out of many minerals in which a metal may be found, only a few are viable to be used as sources of that metal. Such minerals are known as ores. Examples: Galena, PbS, etc. It is usually contaminated with earthly or undesired materials known as gangue. The extraction and isolation of metals from ores involve the following major steps: • Concentration of the ore,

• Isolation of the metal from its concentrated ore, and
• Purification of the metal. It is also called ‘Refining’.

Stages of extraction of metals:
After the concentration of the ore is done, there are two main steps or stages in extractive metallurgy. They are: Conversion of the ore into Metal oxide or metal compound.
Extraction of crude metal from metal from metal compound.

Concentration of ores:
Removal of the unwanted materials (e.g., sand, clays, etc.) from the ore is known as concentration, dressing or benefaction. It involves several steps and selection of these steps depends upon the differences in physical properties of the compound of the metal present and that of the gangue.

Principle: Concentration is done mainly to increase the percentage of pure metal. It is of 3 types.
1. Gravity separation (Hydraulic washing)
2. Froth floatation
3. Magnetic separation.

Froth floatation:
This method has been in use for removing gangue from sulphide ores. In this process, a suspension of the powdered ore is made with water. To it, collectors and froth stabilizers are added. Collectors (e. g., pine oils, fatty acids, xanthates, etc.) enhance non-wettability of the mineral particles and froth stabilizers (e. g., cresols, aniline) stabilize the froth. The mineral particles become wet by oils while the gangue particles by water. A rotating paddle agitates the mixture and draws air in it. As a result, froth is formed which carries the mineral particles. The froth is light and is skimmed off. It is then dried for recovery of the ore particles. Sometimes, it is possible to separate two sulphide ores by adjusting proportion of oil to water or by using ‘depressants’. For example, in case of an ore containing ZnS and PbS, the depressant used is NaCN. It selectively prevents ZnS from coming to the froth but allows PbS to come with the froth.

Magnetic Separation:
This is based on differences in magnetic properties of the ore components. If either the ore or the gangue (one of these two) is capable of being attracted by a magnetic field, then such separations are carried out (e.g., in case of iron ores). The ground ore is carried on a conveyer belt which passes over a magnetic roller.

Extractive Metallurgy is broadly classified into:

1. Pyrometallurgy 2. Hydrometallurgy 3. Electrometallurgy.

1. Pyrometallurgy:
Pyrometallurgy involves high temperature processes where chemical reactions take place among gases, solids, and molten materials. Solids containing valuable metals are reacted to form intermediate compounds for further processing or converted into their elemental or metallic state. Pyrometallurgical processes that involve gases and solids are typified by calcining and roasting operations. Processes that produce molten products are collectively referred to as smelting operations. The energy required to sustain the high temperature pyrometallurgical processes may come entirely from the exothermic nature of the chemical reactions taking place, usually oxidation reactions. Often, however, energy must be added to the process by combustion of fuel or, in the case of some smelting processes, by the direct application of electrical energy.

2. Electrometallurgy:
Electrometallurgy involves metallurgical processes that take place in some form of electrolytic cell. The most common types of electrometallurgical processes are electrowinning and electro-refining. Electrowinning is an electrolysis process used to...
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