Most probably, copper is the first metal known to human kind. It is one of a few metals to naturally occur in its un-compounded state, as native copper. It was also probably the first to be extracted by smelting from ores.
The Timna Basin, extending west from the Arava Valley in Sinai Peninsula, has been the site of copper mining since around 4000 BC, through the days of the ancient Egyptians, King Solomon, the Romans and the Byzantines until present times. The most abundant copper-containing minerals in Timna region are chrysocolla (copper silicate CuSiO3∙2H2O) and malachite (basic copper carbonate Cu2CO3∙Cu(OH)2), which has contributed its forest-green color to the Timna Copper Mines company logotype.
Polished malachite specimen
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Timna Copper Mines
Timna is located 25 kilometers to the north of Eilat, Israel’s resort city on the Red Sea. Timna Copper Mines Ltd. was founded in 1951 as a government-owned company that was incorporated into the Israel Chemicals Group. The mining operations were started in 1958, manufacturing copper cement from the ore.
Since its foundation in 1958 and until 1985, Timna Copper mines went through the period of extensive growth. The number of employees reached 950 people. The mines produced up to 1.1 million tons of copper ore per annum. The open pits produced about half of this quantity, while the underground pits supplied the rest. The total quantity of copper cement produced was 16000 tons per annum. The plant facilities included the mines, crushing and wet grinding stations, leaching tanks, sulphuric acid production unit, the thickeners and the copper cement precipitation launders.
Most of the copper cement produced in initial period was exported to custom smelters abroad. In 1971 Timna Copper Mines extended its facilities and the production of copper sulfate from copper cement had been launched. In 1975, copper sulfate plant output was expanded utilizing metallic copper scrap from various sources such as power cables and wires.
In 1978, the operations were extended to include the manufacture of manganese sulfate agricultural grade by a unique process that recovered the minute manganese values present in the copper ore.
Mining operations were terminated in 1985 as a result of copper price reduction and the continuous rise in mining costs, due to the downward inclination and deepening of the ore-body, which rendered further mining uneconomical. The manufacturing of copper cement and manganese sulfate was stopped consequently.
Since 1985, Timna Copper Mines’ facilities have been extended furthermore. An aluminium recycling plant was started up in 1998, utilizing highly pure aluminium scrap from different industries (beverage cans, bore chips, etc.). Basic copper carbonate production has been recently launched in the newly built manufacturing plant (2004). One of the most promising developments is the ammoniacal etchant production/regeneration unit (started up in 2001) that operates in a closed loop and serves Israeli printed circuit board industry. In addition, we keep on manufacturing the high-clean copper sulfate, utilizing metallic copper from reliable secondary raw materials.