What is the Difference Between Smelting and Roasting

Ores are naturally occurring rocks or sediments that contain valuable minerals, typically metals, in high concentrations. Smelting and roasting are both processes involved in extracting metals from their ores.

What is the difference between smelting and roasting? Smelting involves high temperatures, while roasting involves lower temperatures when compared to smelting.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Smelting 
     – Definition, Facts, Features
2. What is Roasting
     – Definition, Facts, Features
3. Similarities Between Smelting and Roasting
    – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Smelting and Roasting
     – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Smelting and Roasting 
     – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Smelting, Roasting, Metallurgy 

Difference Between Smelting and Roasting - Comparison Summary

What is Smelting

Smelting is a process that uses high heat and a chemical reaction to break down a compound and release the metal.  Ores are filled with the desired metal but locked away in chemical compounds like oxides or sulfides. Smelting uses heat and chemistry to break down the bond and liberate the metal. In this process, ore is heated to scorching temperatures. A reducing agent like coke or charcoal then reacts with the oxygen or sulfur in the ore compound, pulling them away from the metal. To remove impurities, a flux is added, a substance that combines with the impurities to form a liquid slag, easily separated from the molten metal. These molten metals are further refined for different uses.


Figure 1: Smelting Furnace

Depending on the metal used, the entire process may vary. For example, iron melting involves separating iron oxide with the help of carbon monoxide. The main use of smelting is the extraction of metals from their ores. They are then used in construction, transportation, consumer goods, and electronics.

What is Roasting

Roasting prepares the ore for the extraction process. Ores, often containing metals such as sulfides (combined with sulfur), aren’t quite ready for smelting’s intense heat. Roasting helps transform them into a more manageable form. Here, the ore is heated in the presence of air below its melting point. In this situation, oxygen from the air reacts with metal sulfide. It gets converted into reactive metal oxide.


Figure 2: Roasted Gold Ore

Roasting also can eliminate moisture and volatile impurities present in the ore. For certain ores, roasting helps remove unwanted elements like arsenic or antimony that can interfere with metal extraction.

Similarities Between Smelting and Roasting

  1. Both processes rely on chemical reactions to transform the ore.
  2. Smelting and roasting are large-scale industrial processes used in metal production.
  3. Both roasting and smelting are involved in preparing the ore for the final extraction of the desired metal.
  4. While roasting uses lower temperatures than smelting, they both use significant heat to induce chemical changes in the ore.

Difference Between Smelting and Roasting


  • Smelting is a metallurgical process that involves heating ores to high temperatures to extract metals in their pure form while roasting is a metallurgical process used to prepare ores for further processing by heating them in temperatures below the melting point of the ore.


  • Roasting uses lower temperatures, typically below the melting point of the ore. Smelting, on the other hand, uses very high temperatures, exceeding the melting point of the ore and often reaching over 1500°C.


  • Roasting doesn’t typically involve adding flux (a material that removes impurities), while smelting often uses flux to remove impurities present in the ore.


  • Roasting prepares the ore for smelting by making the metal easier to extract. The final product is still an oxide, not a pure metal. However, smelting directly yields the desired metal in its molten form.


Smelting and roasting are two methods used in the process of metal extraction. Smelting occurs at high temperatures while roasting involves a lower temperature than that used in smelting. This is the basic difference between smelting and roasting.

FAQ: Smelting and Roasting

1. What is the difference between melting and smelting?

Melting is the process of turning a solid into a liquid with heat, while smelting is the process of using high heat to extract a pure metal from its ore. This is the basic difference between melting and smelting.

2. What is the difference between refining and smelting?

Smelting involves extracting metals from ores by heating them with a reducing agent to separate the metal from its mineral components. Refining, on the other hand, focuses on purifying the already extracted metal through processes like electrolysis, chemical precipitation, or distillation.

3. What is the difference between roasting and calcination?

Roasting involves heating with air to remove impurities or convert a sulfide to an oxide. Calcination, on the other hand, heats without air, typically to drive off water or decompose carbonates. Thus, this is the main difference between roasting and calcination.

4. What is calcination?

Calcination is a high-temperature thermal treatment process for solid materials. It involves heating the material to a high temperature, below its melting point, in a controlled atmosphere to cause chemical changes.

5. What are smelters?

Smelters are giant furnaces used in a process called smelting to extract metals from their ores. Smelters are essential for the production of many important metals, such as iron, copper, aluminum, and nickel.


1. “Smelting.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 
2. “Roasters.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “TVA phosphate smelting furnace” By Alfred T. Palmer – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Roasted Cripple Creek gold ore” By James St. John – Cripple Creek Diatreme (Early Oligocene, 32 Ma), central Colorado 1 (CC BY 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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