Chalcopyrite—bearer of a precious, non-precious metal

Geology Today



The mineral chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) is the world's most abundant source of copper, a metal component in virtually every piece of electrical equipment. It is the main copper mineral in several different ore deposit types, the most important of which are porphyry deposits. Chalcopyrite is unstable at the Earth's surface, so it weathers from sulphide outcrops and mine waste piles, contributing acid and dissolved copper to what is known as acid rock drainage. If not prevented, dissolved copper from chalcopyrite weathering will be transported downstream, potentially harming ecosystems along the way. Pristine areas are becoming targets for future copper supply as we strive to meet ever-increasing demands for copper by developed and developing nations. Additionally, our uses for copper are expanding to include technology such as solar energy production. This has lead to the processing of increasingly lower grade ores, which is possible, in part, due to advances in bio-leaching (i.e. metal extraction catalysed by micro-organisms). Although copper is plentiful, it is still a nonrenewable resource. Future copper supply promises to fall short of demand and the volatility of the copper market may continue if we do not prioritize copper use and improve copper recycling and ore extraction efficiency.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Chalcopyrite—bearer of a precious, non-precious metal
Series title Geology Today
DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2013.00862.x
Volume 29
Issue 1
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 6 p.
First page 30
Last page 35
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