When is copper a metal?
The US Geological Survey (USGS) says that copper is a non-metallic metal.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
Copper is not a metal, says geologist and former USGS researcher Bill Feltner.
And copper isn’t just a copper metal, it’s also a nonferrous metallic.
It’s a metal with a certain chemical formula, and that formula can be made up of several different metals.
But copper is not just a metal.
It can also be an amalgam of metals.
“When I talk about metals, I’m not talking about just copper, I mean all those metals,” says Felter.
“And I think that the way we think about copper is that it’s just an amalgamation of metals, it just has that formula.”
Felters group of colleagues at the USGS has been studying metals since the 1970s.
They are a world-leading team of metal researchers and experts in the field.
But in 2016, they were contacted by the mining company Rio Tinto.
The company wanted to investigate how much copper was present in the ground around it.
“We were very interested in it because we wanted to understand how much it is,” says Bill Fethner.
Rio Tintin approached the US Geological Service with an offer to study copper in a new way.
But the USGGS declined.
“They told us, ‘Oh we don’t need to do anything with it,'” says Fether.
Rio’s offer is an interesting example of a company taking an interest in an area that might otherwise go untapped.
“In the past, we’ve had very little exploration, and the mining industry has been very slow to take a position in that area,” says Professor Fethers.
But it’s not just gold that Rio Tinkers was interested in.
Feltners team of colleagues were also working on a project on how to create copper oxide, a chemical that could be used to make copper and silver.
They wanted to see if they could make copper oxide using copper ore and copper pipes.
The researchers wanted to be sure that the copper oxide was actually copper and not just copper oxide.
But they also wanted to find out what it was made of.
“There are very few methods to find these materials,” says Rio Tins’ Dr Scott Bannister.
“It’s quite a technical challenge.”
So the team took copper ore from a well in central Queensland, and then worked with Rio Tinks engineers to turn the ore into copper oxide and then combine the two.
But just how effective was the process?
The copper oxide that the researchers produced was still copper.
“The fact that it was still pure copper, was a very good result,” says Bannisters team.
And they did it very quickly.
“So we could see it was very well formed,” says Dr Felts.
But there were some problems.
The team didn’t have a way to make sure that copper would be stable in the pipe for a long time.
And the copper was still coming out of the pipe.
The copper was being heated, which meant that it wasn’t stable in a pipe for more than a day or so.
“These were real challenges that were hard to overcome,” says the team.
But by working with Rio, the team was able to solve these problems.
“Now we know that this process is really robust, that we can make this very stable copper,” says Mr Bannistans team.
“I think that it has huge potential,” says Ms Felt, adding that it could be a tool for mining companies to work with other industries and countries.
Rio is a major mining company.
It is also one of the biggest copper producers in Australia.
“If you have a good copper production process, you can use it to make some really big metals, like gold, platinum, copper and platinum,” says Glynn Raine from the University of Technology Sydney.
But because of Rio Tints problems, the company stopped its copper mining operations from a mining project in Western Australia.
So is there any hope for the copper industry in Australia?
Rio Tinton is the second largest copper producer in Australia and has a vast copper mining operation in Western Victoria.
“One of the reasons for Rio Ttinc’s decision to stop mining copper in Western and Northern Australia is because of the lack of experience in mining copper there, and we don´t have any of that,” says Raine.
“Rio Tinton had a lot of experience mining copper ore in Australia, and so we’re not sure that they could do that, and they have also found that it is quite difficult to get copper ore to go into a copper pipe, so they are probably going to stop.”
The reason that Rio is stopping its copper operations in Western Western Victoria is because it doesn’t have the best copper production in Australia yet.
But its mining operations are in the state of