Separation of Copper from Liquid Media

Copper has been mined commercially for more than 5,000 years, and is perhaps the Earth's most versatile metal. Copper is invaluable to mankind in a huge variety of applications from alloy production to power transmission, to micro-electronics. Copper is generally found as the multivalent cation, Cu2+, and less often as the monovalent ion, Cu+. Both of these ionic forms can generally be sorbed by strong acid cation exchange resins. For the more demanding applications, chelating resins from DuPont may offer significant benefits.

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Mining & Mineral Processing


Solvent extraction (SX) has been the predominant method of copper recovery in mining applications. While solvent extraction processes are adequate for high-grade ores, selective ion exchange (IX) has proven more economical, particularly for copper recovery from lower-grade sources of copper (those producing pregnant leach solution grades less than about 1.0 g/L).

DuPont has developed a number of selective IX resins for the capture, recovery, and purification of copper. The resins selectively remove copper from a background high in iron or other metals. Using these DuPont resins, very high purity cathode copper can be produced even without electro-refining:

AmberSep™ M4195 Chelating Resin is highly-selective for copper in acidic conditions. Elution is accomplished with an ammonium solution.

AmberSep™ M4196 Resin is highly-selective for copper and is used when elution with sulfuric acid is desired.


Acid Rock Drainage (ARD)


AmberSep™ M4195 Chelating Resin may be an excellent choice for many ARD applications. This resin has extreme selectivity for copper and high removal efficiency so effluent streams have extremely low concentrations of copper, even at very low pH.




Copper is often a problem metal in precious metal and trivalent chromium plating operations. The distinct ability of AmberSep™ M4195 UPS Resin to selectively sorb Cu2+ from strongly acidic media makes it an excellent choice for applications like removal of copper from trivalent chromium baths and from bright-dip rinse applications in aluminum finishing processes. AmberSep™ M4195 UPS Resin offers exceptional kinetics due to its uniform particle size distribution. In systems requiring lowest pressure drop, AmberSep™ M4195 Chelating Resin will be preferred.

AmberSep™ IRC748 Chelating Resin is used to remove copper from copper plating rinse streams.

In some solutions of hydrochloric acid, copper forms anionic complexes that can be captured using a strong base anion exchanger like AmberSep™ 21K XLT Resin.




Printed Circuit Board & Electronic Chips


Current technology for high-speed data chips incorporate copper conductors. Several chip manufacturers have already discovered the phenomenal selectivity, capacity, and acid processing capability of AmberSep™ M4195 Chelating Resin, making it well-suited for this application area. Due to its uniform particle size, AmberSep™ M4195 UPS Resin should also be considered to take advantage of improved resin operating capacity and more efficient regeneration.




Removal of copper from water and organic solvents is fairly common using strong acid cation resins. For waters with low levels of salt content, a strong acid cation resin such as AmberSep™ G26 H Resin would be a good starting point. In addition, a weakly acidic cation exchange resin like AmberLite™ IRC83 H Resin is often quite selective for multivalent ions such as Cu2+.

If the wastewater is highly acidic, AmberSep™ M4195 Chelating Resin should be used.




“Copper Recovery from Leach Liquors Using Continuous Ion Exchange” by Gordon J. Rossiter and Kenneth C. Carey, Proceedings of Copper Hydromet Roundtable 98, Randol, Vancouver.

“Ammoniacal elution of copper from ion exchange resins” by Byleveld, Edward, Patent US4371506, Hemsley Engineering Ltd.