Ore – definition and meaning

Ore refers to a naturally-occurring rock that contains metal or metal compounds. There must be enough metal in the rock to make it worthwhile extracting. Ores are materials that we mine. They contain enough metal to justify mining on a commercial scale. In other words, we must be able to mine it at a profit.

The amount of metal that must be present for mining to be profitable depends. For example, there must be at least 20% to 30% by weight of iron to mine iron ore profitably.

However, for copper ore, we only need a 0.5% concentration of copper.

According to Study.com:

“An ore is a special type of rock that contains a large enough amount of a particular mineral (usually a metal) to make it economically practical to extract that mineral from the surrounding rock.”

Metal ores are usually silicates, sulfides, oxides, or ‘native’ metals. For example, native copper is an uncombined form of copper that exists as a natural mineral.

What are ore deposits?

Deposits are accumulations of ores. We define an ore deposit as a single occurrence of a particular type of ore.

We refer to most of them according to where they are. For example, much of South Africa’s gold comes from its Witswatersrand deposit.

We sometimes name the deposit after its discoverer. For example, we name the Kambalda nickel shoots after drillers. Alternatively, we may name a deposit after a prominent person or something from mythology.

Ore - definition and some examples
Ore refers to the rock that contains the metal or metal compound. It does not refer to the metal. There must be enough of the metal in the rock so that mining companies can extract it profitably.

Ore trade

Traders buy and sell ores internationally in commodity markets. In fact, metals comprise an important percentage of trade in raw materials. This is due to the unequal distribution of ores.

The London Metal Exchange is the main global hub for international trade in base metals. Base metals are metals that we do not consider as precious, i.e., they are common. For example, copper, tin, and zinc are base metals.

The COMEX and NYMEX exchanges in the US, as well as the Shanghai Futures Exchange in China, are also centers for base metal trading. However, compared to the London Metal Exchange, trade in both value and volume is quite small.

Purchasers and producers trade in iron ore through several benchmark prices. Giant mining companies and major consumers set the prices every quarter. In fact, they set the stage for smaller traders.

Many other commodities have no benchmark price. Suppliers and consumers negotiate prices each time they meet. Subsequently, determining the prices of some ores is not easy.

Examples of ‘lesser commodities’ are lithium, antimony, bismuth, niobium-tantalum, and rare earths.

China is the world’s largest importer of metals and ores, followed by the United States and Japan.

Video – getting a mineral from an ore

This Fuse School video looks at minerals and ores from a Chemical Sciences viewpoint.