How do I Extract Copper Metal From the Rock (Ore) That it Comes From?


The extraction of copper from ore is the process that laid the foundations for industrialized society. According to The Islamic Ministry of Mines, "There is evidence that by about 6400 B.C. copper was being melted and cast into objects in the area now known as Turkey." Learning how to extract copper from ore is fairly straightforward and can be accomplished using chemicals and glassware readily available in a school chemistry lab.

Things You'll Need

  • Lab coat
  • Latex gloves
  • Goggles
  • 100 ml liquid measure
  • Malachite ore
  • Hammer
  • Plastic bag
  • Funnel
  • Coffee filter
  • Ring stand
  • Sulfuric Acid (One Molar Strength)
  • Paper bag
  • Two 250 ml glass beakers
  • Iron Nails
  • Steel Wool
  • Forceps
  • Put on a lab coat, safety gloves and goggles. Place the malachite copper ore into a plastic bag. Insert the plastic bag into a brown paper bag. Proceed to hammer the rock until resembles dust.

  • Set up your funnel and coffee filter using a ring stand. Place the crushed malachite into the coffee filter.

  • Fill one of the 250 ml glass beakers with 75 ml to 125 ml of sulfuric acid measured using the 100 ml liquid measure. Place the second 250 ml glass beaker directly under the funnel on the ring stand.

  • Carefully pour the sulfuric acid from the glass beaker over the crushed malachite in the coffee filter. Position the second beaker below the dripping copper leachate solution. The solution should come out blue, indicating the presence of copper in the solution.

  • Scrub the iron nails with steel wool while waiting for the sulfuric acid to filter. Once the coffee filter has stopped dripping solution place the iron nails into the solution present within the 250 ml glass beaker.

  • Observe the copper that collects on the iron nails. Once sufficiently coated extract the nails from the solution using forceps. Rinse the malachite with 50 ml of tap water to reduce sulfuric acid content before disposal.

  • Add aluminum foil to the copper solution and allow it to sit overnight. This will precipitate any remaining copper from the solution by replacing copper ions in the solution with aluminum ions. Dispose of the filtered malachite copper ore by wrapping it in plastic and throwing it in the garbage. The remaining chemical solution must be properly disposed of by following standard laboratory protocol.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rinse off the iron nails if you wish to store them.
  • If you do not have access to a laboratory then glassware, chemicals, and copper malachite ore can be ordered online.
  • Dispose of wastes properly. Some of the end products of this procedure can cause serious harm to the environment.
  • This procedure is dangerous due to the use of highly concentrated sulfuric acid. Wear goggles, a lab coat, and gloves at all times during this procedure. Sulfuric acid can burn the skin and cause blindness.
  • Keep sulfuric acid away from small children. It can cause serious internal injury if consumed.

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  • Photo Credit copper cable image by Witold Krasowski from
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