Copper, an essential element in our daily lives
Historically copper was the first metal to be transformed by humans—before iron, which requires higher temperatures to melt. Copper was initially used to create jewelry, tools, sculptures, and lamps, among other items. That was more than 10,000 years ago.
Today, copper is ubiquitous in our lives. All electrical apparatus and electronic equipment contain some—coffee machines, wind turbines, cell phones, plumbing pipes, electric vehicles, and many more.
CCR Refinery has a production capacity of 325,000 metric tonnes of copper per year, sold in the form of cathodes.
Copper’s great ability to conduct electricity makes it a logical choice for all types of electrical wires and cables. This is its primary use today. Over 50% of the world’s copper serves this purpose, and the proportion is growing. And the move to green energy augurs very well for copper—an average wind turbine structure contains more than one tonne of copper. And with electric vehicles growing in popularity, copper producers and, indirectly, the refiners who process the copper using increasingly complex processes can look forward to a bright future indeed.
Copper is highly resistant to corrosion and is being used more and more by architects. It’s found in roofs, statues, and anything at the mercy of inclement weather. Unlike iron and steel, copper does not rust. When exposed to bad weather, copper oxidizes and forms a thin surface layer that protects it and allows it to remain intact for hundreds of years. Copper can also be recycled infinitely without losing its properties.
Copper is a highly effective antibacterial. It can be found in many public spaces such as hospitals, public transportation, and other locations where bacteria are omnipresent. Hospitals that have started using copper have noted a 90% to 100% drop in the amount of bacteria present on copper equipment compared to bacteria on other materials.
Critical and Strategic Minerals
In addition to copper, other metals processed in the CCR Refinery also play a vital role in human activities: gold, silver, platinum and palladium, selenium, tellurium dioxide, and nickel sulfate. Discover how these critical and strategic minerals make up an integral part of our daily existence—and our future as well.
Because it is rust-proof, malleable, and brilliant, gold has been used by jewelers for millennia. Nowadays most gold is still consumed in jewelry. Since pure gold is too soft to be used as is, jewelers alloy it with copper, silver, or platinum to render it harder and more durable.
Gold is also used for electronic components. For example, many space vehicle components are equipped with gold-plated polystyrene panels to reflect infrared rays and stabilize the craft’s temperature. Without this reflective film, it would absorb large amounts of heat.
Gold is also employed in automobile air bags since its corrosion resistance and conductibility allow electronic data to circulate under all conditions, from -30° C to +30° C, and thereby ensure that air bags open instantly in the event of an accident. Because of its conductivity, gold is also found in the electronic products we use daily—cell phones, calculators, global positioning systems (GPS), TV sets, and many other devices.
Because it is strong and malleable, silver can be crafted into many forms, making it highly useful in many areas. It is used extensively in the making of jewelry, medals, and coins. Since silver has good electrical conductivity, it is used in welding and soldering compounds, batteries, and catalysts. Silver is also sensitive to light, giving it a reflective property that is suited to the manufacture of photographic film.
Silver is also used in the manufacture of musical instruments. Among other things, it can be used to coat guitar strings and is found is some sound equipment. In addition, many band-aid manufacturers use a silver-based technology containing active silver with antiseptic properties that are released when the metallic silver ions come in contact with the wound. Because silver ions eliminate the bacteria responsible for infections, using silver-based technology reduces the risk.
Main uses of platinum
Platinum is most widely used in the automotive sector to reduce atmospheric emissions from combustion engines through catalytic converters. Since it is heavier and stronger than gold, platinum is also used in the manufacture of electrodes for auto spark plugs.
Apart from autos, platinum is used to make computer hard disks, neurosurgical devices, and certain cancer-fighting medications. It is also used as an alloy for dental repairs and in laboratory equipment.
Main uses of palladium
Palladium is used a lot in electronics—when alloyed with nickel, it is used to manufacture computer connectors for interfacing with and linking equipment via cables. Palladium is an excellent conductor for multilayer ceramic capacitors, and palladium wire also produces a rich sound for high-end stereo systems.
Since palladium is hypoallergenic and well tolerated by the body, it is used medically in artificial joints.
Selenium is used as a semiconductor for photocopiers and laser printers. It also has applications in metallurgy, welding, and glassmaking. Selenium is used as a pigment in plastics, ceramics, and glass to produce colors from yellow to red—it’s what gives traffic signals their bright red color. Automobile makers use it in glazing to reduce solar heat transmission.
Selenium is also a trace element indispensable to human bodies and, in small doses, has antioxidant properties. It helps protect cell membranes from the free radicals that are responsible for aging, some cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers. It plays an essential role in the immune system and thyroid gland function. It is even used in agriculture to manufacture some fertilizers.
Tellurium dioxide is primarily used in iron and steel alloys to enhance machinability. It is also employed in solar panels and as a catalyst in rubber vulcanization, a process that incorporates sulfur into rubber to make it stronger.
In electronics, it is used for thermal imaging, in infrared sensors, thermoelectric cooling devices, laser printers and photocopiers, and in DVDs, CDs, and rewritable Blu-ray discs. Lastly, tellurium dioxide can be used as pigment in glass and ceramics.
Nickel and its compounds are essentially used to make alloys and in the production of pigments. Nickel sulfate is used in the nickel refining process and to plate some other metals.
Nickel can be used in the making of stainless steel to confer hardness and rust-resistance. Nickel compounds are used in household batteries and, increasingly, in powerful electric vehicle batteries.