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Electric phosphate smelting furnace in a TVA chemical plant (1942)

Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver, iron, copper, and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, driving off other elements as gases or slag and leaving the metal base behind. The reducing agent is commonly a fossil fuel source of carbon, such as coke—or, in earlier times, charcoal.[1] The oxygen in the ore binds to carbon at high temperatures due to the lower potential energy of the bonds in carbon dioxide (CO
2
). Smelting most prominently takes place in a blast furnace to produce pig iron, which is converted into steel.

The carbon source acts as a chemical reactant to remove oxygen from the ore, yielding the purified metal element as a product. The carbon source is oxidized in two stages. First, the carbon (C) combusts with oxygen (O2) in the air to produce carbon monoxide (CO). Second, the carbon monoxide reacts with the ore (e.g. Fe2O3) and removes one of its oxygen atoms, releasing carbon dioxide (CO
2
), a notable greenhouse gas. After successive interactions with carbon monoxide, all of the oxygen in the ore will be removed, leaving the raw metal element (e.g. Fe).[2] As most ores are impure, it is often necessary to

Smelting is a process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal. It is a form of extractive metallurgy. It is used to extract many metals from their ores, including silver, iron, copper, and other base metals. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent to decompose the ore, driving off other elements as gases or slag and leaving the metal base behind. The reducing agent is commonly a fossil fuel source of carbon, such as coke—or, in earlier times, charcoal.[1] The oxygen in the ore binds to carbon at high temperatures due to the lower potential energy of the bonds in carbon dioxide (CO
2
). Smelting most prominently takes place in a blast furnace to produce pig iron, which is converted into steel.

The carbon source acts as a chemical reactant to remove oxygen from the ore, yielding the purified metal element as a product. The carbon source is oxidized in two stages. First, the carbon (C) combusts with oxygen (O2) in the air to produce carbon monoxide (CO). Second, the carbon monoxide reacts with the ore (e.g. Fe2O3) and removes one of its oxygen atoms, releasing carbon dioxide (CO
2
), a notable greenhouse gas. After successive interactions with carbon monoxide, all of the oxygen in the ore will be removed, leaving the raw metal element (e.g. Fe).[2] As most ores are impure, it is often necessary to use a flux, such as limestone, to remove the accompanying rock gangue as slag. This calcination reaction also frequently emits carbon dioxide.

As a result of both the oxidation of carbon and the calcination of a flux, industrial smelting is a contributor to climate change.[3] Plants for the electrolytic reduction of aluminium are also generally referred to as aluminium smelters.