Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy
Extractive metallurgy
Extractive metallurgy is the study of the processes used in the separation and concentration of raw materials. The field is an applied science, covering all aspects of the physical and chemical processes used to produce mineral-containing and metallic materials, sometimes for direct use as a...

; its main use is to produce a metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 from its ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

. This includes iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

 extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction
Copper extraction
Copper extraction techniques refers to the methods for obtaining copper from its ores. This conversion consists of a series of chemical, physical, and electrochemical processes. Methods have evolved and vary with country depending on the ore source, local environmental regulations, and other...

 and other base metals from their ores. Smelting uses heat and a chemical reducing agent
Redox reactions describe all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation state changed....

 to change the oxidation state
Oxidation state
In chemistry, the oxidation state is an indicator of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. The formal oxidation state is the hypothetical charge that an atom would have if all bonds to atoms of different elements were 100% ionic. Oxidation states are typically represented by...

 of the metal ore; the reducing agent is commonly a source of carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 such as coke
Coke (fuel)
Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.- History :...

, or in earlier times charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

. The carbon or carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

 derived from it removes oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 from the ore to leave the metal.