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Solvometallurgy: An Emerging Branch of Extractive Metallurgy | SpringerLink

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The target metal is further refined at high temperatures and reduced to its pure form. In hydrometallurgy, the object metal is first dissociated from other materials using a chemical reaction , which is then extracted in pure form using electrolysis or precipitation.

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Finally, electrometallurgy generally involves electrolytic or electrothermal processing. The metal ore is either distilled in a electrolyte or acid solution, then magnetically deposited onto a cathode plate electrowinning ; or smelted then melted using an electric arc or plasma arc furnace electrothermic reactor.

Another major difference in non-ferrous extraction is the greater emphasis on minimizing metal losses in slag. This is widely due to the exceptional scarcity and economic value of certain non-ferrous metals which are, inevitably, discarded during the extraction process to some extent.

Metal Cutting

Recent developments in non-ferrous extractive metallurgy now emphasize the reprocessing and recycling of rare and non-ferrous metals from secondary raw materials scrap found in landfills. Early smelters developed ways to effectively increase smelting temperatures by feeding the fire with forced flows of oxygen. Copper extraction in particular is of great interest in archeometallurgical studies since it dominated other metals in Mesopotamia from the early Chalcolithic until the mid-to-late sixth century BC. Some scholars believe that extractive metallurgy may have been simultaneously or independently discovered in several parts of the world.

The earliest known use of pyrometallurgical extraction of copper occurred in Belovode , eastern Serbia , from the late sixth to early fifth millennium BC. From the third millennium onward, the invention of the reusable smelting furnace was crucial to the success of large-scale copper production and the robust expansion of the copper trade through the Bronze Age.


The earliest silver objects began appearing in the late fourth millennium BC in Anatolia , Turkey. Prehistoric silver extraction is strongly associated with the extraction of the less valuable metal, lead ; although evidence of lead extraction technology predates silver by at least 3 millennia.

Handbook of Extractive Metallurgy Volume 1

In general, prehistoric silver recovery was broken down into three phases: First, the silver-lead ore is roasted to separate the silver and lead from the gangue. Finally, lead is oxidized to form lead monoxide PbO or is absorbed into the walls of the crucible, leaving the refined silver behind. The silver-lead cupellation method was first used in Mesopotamia between and BC.


Silver artifacts , dating around BC, were discovered in Naqada, Egypt. Some of these cast silver artifacts contained less than 0.

SME Mineral Processing & Extractive Metallurgy Handbook, 2 Volumes

Cupellation was also being used in parts of Europe to extract gold, silver, zinc, and tin by the late ninth to tenth century AD. Here, one of the earliest examples of an integrated unit process for extracting more than one precious metal was first introduced by Theophilus around the twelfth century. First, the gold-silver ore is melted down in the crucible, but with an excess amount of lead.