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Old 07-03-2012, 03:01 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Copper Plates on Flatbed trucks ?

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed some metal on the back of trucks while driving highways on the east, southeast, and northeast side of Arizona.

Five separate flatbed trucks today (sometimes in groups of 3 or 4 from my past sightings) with 3 groups of what look to be large 3'x3' copper plates chained standing up on them. (Not piles or laid in rows, but vertically stacked side-by-side.)

3 groups chained down x 14-18 plates per chained group.
The plates I estimate to be approximately 2-4 inches thick (never really seen one of these trucks stopped, and today I saw one stopped but didn't dart across to the same pull-out just to satisfy my curiosity.) There is a ASARCO copper smelting operation out near Winkelman/Hayden, AZ that I suspect is generating them (because I've seen them now along this road about 5 or 6 times, middle of the day, never at night.)

Originally I was just trying to post a question to maybe some hauler/mining/engineer/smelter-knowledge types. Research and curiosity got me to an answer of what the damn things are, that I can now share with you all in my edits.

Edits after spending way too long on this *%&#ing non-PM related post:

1) I suppose if I just posted the damn question instead of spending another 40 minutes looking for a picture of the thing...

2) YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO FIND THE IMAGE OF THAT DAMN CHUNK OF METAL. It's a Copper Anode. Christ that took way too long. I wish I was an engineer sometimes.

3) There's only 3 copper smelters left in the USA, from what I gather from this source.

4) Kitco copper price link.

5) Even if they are 36"x36", and 3 inches thick, according to this method, they'd weigh about 1,255 pounds per anode?? (3 x 36 x 36 x .322). That's wild.

EVEN @ est. 2 in.thick - (2 x 36 x 36 x .322) = 834 lbs/anode x $3.5149/lb = $2,933/anode x est 14 per group = $41,062 x 3 groups chained per truck = approx. $123,186 x 5 trucks spotted today = A minimum of $615,930 estimated on the road that I saw today.

Well this was a fun exercise... any miners/smelter experienced in the audience?
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Old 07-03-2012, 04:14 AM   #2
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Ok, you have noted that heavy copper plate is moving along the road in a part of Arizona that is near a smelting operation.

What is it that has you so intrigued by your observations ?
if it cant be done with a digger .... it cant be done
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:02 AM   #3
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Any idea what those sized anodes are used for? At that size, it would have to be something big - like a commercial (or military) ship I'd imagine.
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:26 AM   #4
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I have seen grounding plates that measured 12" X 36" X 1" when demolishing mechanical rooms and large switch gear, but nothing as large as you describe. I can't imagine what they would be used for. Shipt do not use copper as a sacrificial metal, they use zing. 50# zinc anodes are welded to the hull of ships to "give themselves up" to the salt water instead of the steel. It mostly works.

As for the copper plates, you have now officially made me curious enough to look around a bit. ; - )
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Old 07-03-2012, 09:53 AM   #5
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If what they were were copper anodes, this just means that raw, impure copper has been cast into a good shape to put into an electrochemical cell for final refining.

Essentially, they copper plate a cathode, with this impure anode the source of copper in solution. When conditions are set up right, only the copper plates over to the cathode, while all the impurities become the "anode mud" from which goodies like silver (and a bunch of other metals depending on the ore source) are then refined.

Basically, you put two electrodes into a copper sulfate/sulfuric acid solution, and put electricity (positive on the anode) across this, and copper from the anode goes into solution as positive ions, and they then are collected on the cathode (something like a thin sheet of stainless steel). The other stuff in the impure copper anode just falls to the bottom for later collection and possible further metal recovery.

When done, the anode is gone, there's pure copper on the cathode which is removed by bending and hammering to go to the final melt and cast, and there's this mud on the bottom of other metals values that didn't plate over.
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Old 07-03-2012, 01:22 PM   #6
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That makes good sense DCF and is most likely the explanation for the large plates.

Smelting works > refining works.

Now i can sleep a little easier (-:
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Old 07-05-2012, 09:03 AM   #7
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Cu Plates

When I worked for Westinghouse, we used pretty much every shape, size, and weight. Cu was used for electrical contacts, buss, etc... Just for kicks and grins, I purchased 8 oz avdp, with a stamp on it, off of e-Bay. When it arrived, all it was, was a length of low voltage (<5KV) copper buss with an assayer's stamp on it.
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